English title: Measuring legal marital status in Europe and in the European Social Survey

Author(s): Hilde Orten -

Language: English

Type: Conference paper/poster

Year: 2008


Certain segments of the research community call for separate measures of legal marital status and de facto cohabitation. Measuring legal marital status is, however, not a straightforward task. On the one hand, the partnership legislation across Europe is diverse, and different kinds of same or opposite sex civil union alternatives exist in addition to marriage. On the other hand, unregistered cohabitation is quite common in many European countries. In several countries a colloquial interpretation of the concept “legal marital status”, confusing legal status and de facto relationship to a partner, is in use. The European Social Survey, an academically driven multi-country general social survey, fielded every second year since 2002, has made an effort in trying to measure legal marital status and cohabitation separately. Two different versions of the “legal marital status” question have been used - the most recent variant accounts for the diversity in legal partnership statuses, while the first version does not. The outcomes of these attempts show that there is still a need for improvements, and, as the Swedish example shows, that the inclusion of country-specific respondent instructions to the question may be one way to go. A recommendation to the national teams will be to prepare a country-specific introductory text to the legal marital status question in consultation with the ESS Central Coordinating Team, and also that the data are documented as well as possible. Comparable official statistics as well as documentation of the legal partnership alternatives in each country is also called for.

Conference name: New family relationships and living arrangements - demands for change in social statistics, 35th CEIES Seminar

Location: Warsaw, Poland

Start date: Jan 24, 2008

Type: Paper

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