Influence of opportunity structures on transitions and trajectories to family formation

Rajulton Fernando, University of Western Ontario
Zenaida R. Ravanera, University of Western Ontario
Thomas K. Burch, University of Victoria

This study is built on the premise that three major sociological determinants of the life course events related to family formation are class, gender and ethnicity. These three determinants capture the structural social inequalities that still prevail in our postmodern times and influence the life courses and life chances of young men and women. We therefore examine the influence of these determinants on young Canadians’ family formation using both the retrospective and prospective longitudinal information obtained from two completed panels (1993-1998 and 1996-2001) of the Canadian Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics. We focus on men and women aged 18-29 at the start of the panels. Using life table techniques, we examine early life course transitions and as well as trajectories or sequences of transitions to parenthood. This paper presents the results on transitions to postsecondary education, entry into labor force, cohabitation, marriage, and parenthood as well as the trajectories among these events, and the influence of parental and respondents’ own social status. On average, about 60% of young Canadians go for postsecondary education. While 90% in high social class take advantage of the opportunities provided to them by their parents to complete postsecondary education, only about 55% in low social status can do so. Roughly 25 to 30% of young men and women go for cohabitation. They start cohabiting not only at earlier ages but also at a faster rate. We see also a clear trend of delay in family formation through marriage, again revealing the disparity by social strata. The cumulative impact of changes in labor force participation and postsecondary education among women can be seen in large difference between women of high and low social status in their entry into parenthood.

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Presented in Session 83: Timing of Family Formation