Unpartnered motherhood on the rise in Spain: demographic and social Implications

Teresa Castro Martin, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)
Clara Cortina, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Research on fertility trends is increasingly centred on the role that family change, new union formation patterns and partnership instability might play on fertility rates. In the case of Spain, lowest-low fertility levels (1.3 since 2011) have been reached in a context of increasing childbearing within consensual unions (31% of total births in 2014) but also outside co-residential partnerships (12% of total births in 2014). In this paper we examine unpartnered motherhood in Spain in order to ascertain whether this is indeed a new and escalating phenomenon and we reflect on its demographic and social implications. We use Spanish vital statistics (all birth records between 2007 and 2014), Population Register data for 2007 and the Continuous Household Survey for 2014. By combining these data, we compute age-specific fertility rates by women’s partnership status (married, cohabiting, unpartnered) and estimate the contribution of unpartnered fertility to total fertility. We also apply the own-children method to 2001 and 2011 census data to have an alternative measure of unpartnered childbearing. In addition, we examine the socio-demographic profile of unpartnered mothers in order to explore whether there is a polarized pattern of young low-educated unpartnered mothers and older high-educated unpartnered mothers. Finally, we examine the impact of mothers’ partnership status on the health status of their newborns, using low birthweight as an indicator.

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Presented in Session 43: Gender and fertility