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      The changing relationship between marriage and childbearing in Hong Kong

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      PLoS ONE

      Public Library of Science

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          Abstract

          Births outside marriage (BoM) account for around 15% of all births globally. However, the distribution around the world is very uneven, as are cultural and political attitudes towards them. Studies from East Asia have shown that the percentage of such births is very low, with only modest increases in recent years. The orthodox demographic view holds that the maintenance of conservative views around the relationship between marriage and childbearing can play a role in keeping fertility low. Prenuptial pregnancies (PNP) (where births occur within eight months of marriage) have been identified as a growing phenomenon in Japan, possibly being an ‘alternative’ Asian pathway to family formation. As yet, no comprehensive statistical analysis of the trends of BoM or PNP has been performed for Hong Kong. Using a comprehensive microdata set of birth registration in Hong Kong from 1984–2015 (N = 1,680,831) we provide evidence of recent trends in such ‘alternative pathways’ to family formation and examine predictors through regression analysis. Our results indicate, in common with elsewhere in East Asia, low overall period rates of either BoM or PNP (although the latter has risen notably in recent years). While more recent birth cohorts exhibit higher prevalence of such births, their incomplete nature and higher expected propensity suggests that the figures are exaggerated. In our regression analysis, we find that lower educational attainment is a strong predictor of both BoM and PNP, suggesting that a bifurcation of experience may be occurring. This adds further evidence to the theory that the maintenance of traditional family formation systems in the context of revolutionised educational and work opportunities for women mean that the opportunity costs of the ‘marriage package’ become too high. Current disparities in rights and privileges between married and unmarried parents–and especially their children–means that targeted family planning services and support for vulnerable families are policy priorities.

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          Most cited references 24

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          Gender equity, social institutions and the future of fertility

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            Marriage and Family in East Asia: Continuity and Change

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              Societal foundations for explaining fertility: Gender equity

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Data curationRole: Formal analysisRole: InvestigationRole: MethodologyRole: Project administrationRole: ResourcesRole: ValidationRole: Writing – original draftRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Data curationRole: Formal analysisRole: InvestigationRole: MethodologyRole: Project administrationRole: ResourcesRole: ValidationRole: Writing – original draftRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: Editor
                Journal
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                plos
                plosone
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
                1932-6203
                29 March 2018
                2018
                : 13
                : 3
                Affiliations
                [1 ] Division of Social Science and Division of Public Policy, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR, People’s Republic of China
                [2 ] Department of Statistics and Insurance Science, University of Piraeus, Piraeus, Greece
                University of West London, UNITED KINGDOM
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Article
                PONE-D-18-00829
                10.1371/journal.pone.0194948
                5915049
                29596466
                © 2018 Gietel-Basten, Verropoulou

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Figures: 4, Tables: 4, Pages: 13
                Product
                Funding
                The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.
                Categories
                Research Article
                Social Sciences
                Sociology
                Human Families
                Research and Analysis Methods
                Research Design
                Cohort Studies
                Medicine and Health Sciences
                Women's Health
                Maternal Health
                Pregnancy
                Medicine and Health Sciences
                Women's Health
                Obstetrics and Gynecology
                Pregnancy
                Social Sciences
                Sociology
                Education
                Educational Attainment
                People and Places
                Population Groupings
                Age Groups
                Children
                People and Places
                Population Groupings
                Families
                Children
                Medicine and Health Sciences
                Women's Health
                Maternal Health
                Birth
                Medicine and Health Sciences
                Women's Health
                Obstetrics and Gynecology
                Birth
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Population Biology
                Population Metrics
                Fertility Rates
                Social Sciences
                Economics
                Labor Economics
                Employment
                Careers
                Custom metadata
                The data used in this study have been provided by the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department on the proviso that the data are not shared. However, users can apply for the data from the Department upon providing appropriate criteria (see https://www.censtatd.gov.hk/home/). The authors confirm that they did not have any special access privileges to these data.

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