Academic journal article Demographic Research

Union Formation and Dissolution among Immigrants and Their Descendants in the United Kingdom

Academic journal article Demographic Research

Union Formation and Dissolution among Immigrants and Their Descendants in the United Kingdom

Article excerpt

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1. Introduction

European countries are witnessing increases in immigration streams and the ethnic heterogeneity of their populations (Castles and Miller 2009). A large body of literature has examined various aspects of immigrants' lives in Europe, including their employment and education (Adsera and Chiswick 2007; Kogan 2007; Rebhun 2010; Rendall et al. 2010), health and mortality (Sole-Auro and Crimmins 2008; Wengler 2011; Hannemann 2012), residential and housing patterns (Musterd 2005; Arbaci 2008), legal status and citizenship (Seifert 1997; Bauböck 2003; Howard 2005), and linguistic, cultural, and religious diversity (Foner and Alba 2008; Gungor, Fleischmann, and Phalet 2011). The recent literature has also exhibited an increasing interest in the study of family dynamics and patterns among immigrants and their descendants. One stream of research examines the formation and dissolution of exogamous marriages in Europe, with the aim of deepening our understanding of the factors that influence the spread and stability of mixed marriages and their role in immigrant integration (Coleman 1994; González-Ferrer 2006; Kalmijn and Tubergen 2006; Dribe and Lundh 2012; Milewski and Kulu 2014). Another stream investigates fertility dynamics among immigrants and their descendants (Andersson 2004; Toulemon 2004; Milewski 2007; Kulu and Milewski 2007; Coleman and Dubuc 2010; Goldscheider, Goldscheider, and Bernhardt 2011).

The aim of the current paper is to investigate the union formation and dissolution of immigrants and their descendants in the UK and to compare their patterns to those of the 'native' British population.3 We extend the previous literature in the following ways. First, we study various partnership transitions among immigrants and their descendants, including formation and dissolution of cohabitations and marriages. Further, we study the formation and dissolution of both the first and second unions. We thus move beyond the 'one-life-event-at-a-time' approach, which is dominant in the literature on migrant families. We believe that the study of several partnership events over the life course provides us with much richer information about the opportunities and constraints that migrants face than does an analysis of only one (or of the first) marriage of the migrants.

Second, we examine family trajectories among the descendants of migrants, whose share has significantly increased in the last decades in the UK and other European countries (Sobotka and Toulemon 2008). Research has shown that the fate of the 'second generation' is not as rosy as we may wish. Their educational qualifications often remain below those of the majority population, and their labour market performance is often poor (Fassmann 1997; Alba 2005; Meurs, Pailhé, and Simon 2006; Aparicio 2007; Brinbaum and Cebolla-Boado 2007; Van Niekerk 2007; Kristen, Reimer, and Kogan 2008; Aeberhardt et al. 2010; Fibbi, Lerch, and Wanner 2007). The current study provides information on the demographic behaviour of important population subgroups in the UK and will improve our understanding of how various factors shape the fate of the 'second generation' in the European context. This information will be valuable for the development of future integration policies.

Third, to our knowledge, this is the first study on union formation among immigrants and ethnic minorities in the UK that explicitly compares their partnership trajectories to those of the native population from the longitudinal and life course perspectives. Although the dynamics of mixed marriages and fertility of ethnic minorities in Britain have been examined (Coleman 1994; Coleman and Dubuc 2010; Feng et al. 2012; Hampshire, Blell, and Simpson 2012), the topics of union formation and dissolution, and particularly the rise of cohabitation, have not been covered in the recent literature (for earlier cross-sectional research, see Berrington 1994; 1996). …

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