Economic Factors of Marriage and Cohabitation in European Countries

By Reznik, Oleksandr | Economics & Sociology, January 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Economic Factors of Marriage and Cohabitation in European Countries


Reznik, Oleksandr, Economics & Sociology


Introduction

Structural delimitation in the society corrects essentially social behavior that reflects by far on different aspects of human interaction. Being in marriage is one of the objects of such correction. Marriage duration and quality are traditionally reckoned in the list of life chances affected essentially by economic factors. The economic factors acquire special importance in modern society in conditions of transformation of relations between men and women, since a normative component of marriage stops being strict. It is noticed that in the years of the newest economic crises, against a background of total decrease of social activity, people put off such vitally important decision as marriage for undetermined period, and give preference to informal cohabitation.

Sociologists are inclined to connect this phenomenon with the fact that less secured social groups can avoid marriage not for the reasons of principle but because of uncertainty of their own income. Marriage or life together, you know, foresees the purchase of new apartment or lease of lodging, and other material expenditures. At the same time changes in the normative system of regulation of gender relations also introduces its amendments into economic determination of marriage. Thus the investigation of the effect of economic factors of marriage and cohabitation is important and urgent in gender dimension. Study of the influence of marriage and cohabitation factors is traced in numerous investigations, employment and income being distinguished among them. In particular, theoretical explanations of the phenomenon of a decrease of the level of marriages and increase of the number of divorces are connected with Parsons' functionalist theory which stated that a family based on the division of "sex roles" is optimal for societal stability, normal birth rate and children upbringing, instead, a tendency to more symmetrical economic parts of women and men will result in a decrease of benefit under getting married and will undermine the family solidarity (Parsons and Bales, 1955, p. 23). Later on these ideas were embodied in the conception of "marriage erosion", when a decrease of the number of marriages and simultaneously an increase of the number of divorces were perceived in the increasing economic role of women in the society (Becker, 1981; Espenshade, 1985). So, there appeared more recent contributions to the functionalist theory proposing reasons for the observed changes in marriage. These theories, besides the economic factor of income of young people, relate to the gains to marriage, sex ratio imbalances in the marriage market, and secular pressures of modernization. That is in addition to the economic explanation they emphasized the primacy of cultural change. At the same time they continued studying the influence of economic factors on the marriage of race and gender dimension (Farley, 1988).

Meanwhile, Valery Oppenheimer, called attention to socio-economic condition of men, a decrease of the level of marriage and main tendencies to the increase of marriage put- off or even giving up (Oppenheimer, 1982; Oppenheimer, 1988; Oppenheimer, 1994; Oppenheimer, 1997; Oppenheimer, Kalmijn, Lim, 1997; Oppenheimer, 2003). In Oppenheimer's findings the economic state of young people depends in many respects on microeconomic conditions, work availability or absence in particular. But these findings did not keep in mind a general tendency of marriage erosion, but accentuated a delay in getting married, while men made their career and accumulated labor experience. At the same time the author states that cohabitation, in contrast to marriage, does not require so many economic resources. Besides empirical proofs of Oppenheimer's findings, other American investigations as a whole support this version, finding out that bad economic prospects for men are marked by a delay in getting married. That was demonstrated on a series of indicators, i. e., the employment as such, instable employment, low income, career choice, etc. …

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