Muresan 2019

Men’s First Partnership Formation in Four Former State-socialist Countries during the Transition Period

Cornelia Mureşan, Livia Sz. Oláh

Article information

Volume: XIII Issue: 2, Pages: 35-52
Cornelia Mureşan,
Babeş-Bolyai University, Faculty of Sociology and Social Work,
128, 21 Decembrie 1989 Bvd, Cluj-Napoca, Romania,
Livia Sz. Oláh,
Stockholm University, Department of Sociology,
106 91 Stockholm, Sweden


Non-marital cohabitation has become increasingly common, although somewhat less so in Central-Eastern Europe. More precisely, it was not the case in the period immediately following the fail of the communist state. We study changes in men’s first partnership patterns in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania between the 1980s and the early 2000s, with a special attention toward gender differences with respect to the effects of educational attainment. Data concerning men and women extracted from the first round of Generations and Gender Programme in these countries are analysed, relying on proportional hazards event history models with piecewise constant baseline intensity for entering a first union (cohabitation or direct marriage – as competing risks). We find a positive educational gradient for marriage formation among men in all countries analysed, but only in Hungary for women. No such gradient is seen for cohabitation among men, with the exception of Poland. The popularity of cohabitation increased over time while the trend for marriage entry declined, resulting in non-marital unions replacing marriage as the main form of first partnerships by the late 1990s-early 2000s, except for Romania. Declining marriage trends paralleled by women’s growing educational advantage are likely to be related to the limited (and decreasing) supply of highly educated men as most attractive marriage partners in the region. Thus, this study fills the knowledge gap on changes in family formation patterns with emphasis on men’s first co-residential unions in Central-Eastern Europe in the period of major societal transition. The main contribution is highlighting the importance of gendered effects of educational attainment with respect to the type of first union formed.

Keywords: first union, marriage, cohabitation, educational attainment, Generations and Gender Survey, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania


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