Family Formation in China and Germany: A Study of National Cohabitation Patterns and Their Determinants
later more and more countries will go through sequential stages of demographic change
famously labelled as first and second demographic transition. Although countries worldwide
are equally hit by global social and economic changes, the question arises if they
also follow a common path of societal development despite their cultural idiosyncrasies.
This study focuses on two regions facing those common challenges, while being culturally
highly diverse: East Asia and Western Europe.
Recent evidence seems to confirm the convergence assumption as China experiences
rising numbers of cohabitation, decreasing marriage and increasing divorce rates just like
countries in the Western hemisphere did several decades before. One third of all recent
marriages in China began as cohabiting unions, while marrying one’s partner without
prior cohabitation has become rare in the Western hemisphere. Due to its relevance in
the process of family formation this study therefore concentrates on non-marital cohabitation
as new and quickly emerging phenomenon. Despite constituting highly differing
cultural contexts and national policy regimes China and Germany, as comparative case
in the Western hemisphere, share characteristics such as population aging, high women’s
labor participation and widespread conservative family values.
On the basis of two nationally representative annual longitudinal surveys, namely the
German Family Panel pairfam and the China Family Panel Studies CFPS, the cohabitation
history of the cohort which recently turned 35 is examined. Sequence analysis, multinomial
logistic regression and discrete time event history analysis is used to first detect
national patterns of cohabitation histories i.e. the prevalence, occurrence and timing of
cohabitation and, second, to analyze their determinants. Those results enable us to answer
if and how national differences in histories, institutions, and cultural traditions create different
kinds of risks and opportunities for citizens in East Asia and Western Europe.