Family Practice and Family Structure – Do Policies Matter?

Friday, July 18, 2014: 11:00 AM
Room: Booth 54
Oral Presentation
Franz NEUBERGER , Institute of Sociology, University of Zurich, Zürich, Switzerland
Klaus HABERKERN , Institute of Sociology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
In most Western countries the family is subject to major changes: marriage and fertility is on the decline, cohabitation and divorces rates are soaring and the share of childless and childfree persons increases. Most countries have developed a bunch of policies to cope with these trends. Two major strategies can be observed: First, governments try to go against the tide and safeguard traditional marriages and the conjugal families, or, second, adjust introduce social and family policies to prevent negative consequences for the emerging alternative families. However, little is known what the effect of such policies is: Do policies which favour the traditional marriage family increase marriage rates and stability of marriage families?  Do policies with a focus on single parents, patch-work families etc accelerate the trend to more instable family relations? Do social policies as an alternative to family security increase cohabitation and divorce rates?

The analysis is based on official national statistics for OECD countries and covers the time span from 1980 to 2010. The analysis shows that social policies and family policies such as child care services provide alternatives to the traditional marriage families and family at all. Such measure increase cohabitation rates and divorce rates while fertility rates decrease. A generous and benevolent welfare state seems to provide alternatives to the traditional marriage families. Marriage is no more a precondition to avoid or escape poverty. Social security and family policies have lowered the material necessity to enter marriage, and increased the opportunity to exit unpleasant family constellations.