The Timing of and Pathways into Family Life as Measures of Social Distance
Differences in how people form families and the timing of family formation can provide insights into social distance between groups. We situate our study in Norway and Sweden, countries on the leading edge of family changes associated with the so-called Second Demographic Transition and with increasingly diverse populations. Within these contexts, beginning a family via marriage or via a non-marital first birth and the timing of this transition may provide evidence of differences (or similarities) in the meaning attached to family formation across majority and immigrant-background women. Immigrant-generational shifts in the timing and pathway into family life may indicate boundary blurring between majority and immigrant background groups. Using comparable register data and applying demographic modeling techniques, we compare the likelihood, timing, and mode of entry into family life by majority status, immigrant generation and region of (parental) origin. We find that the progressive adoption of the Nordic late marriage pattern across immigrant generations is contingent on global region of (parental) origin. However, regardless of immigrant background status, those who form families via a non-marital first birth, the modal pathway into family life in Norway and Sweden, also follow the timing pattern observed among majority populations. Results highlight the value of considering a broader range of family behaviors and the timing of family life course events to gain a better understanding of the gradations of social change in diverse societies.