, Volume 30, Issue 5, pp 677-699
Date: 08 Apr 2011

Socioeconomic Differences According to Family Arrangements in Chile

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Family changes have accelerated in Chile in the last decades. Impressively, the proportion of children born outside of marriage has reached over 60%, at the same time that marriage has declined and cohabitation has increased. These changes are regularly considered indicators of a second demographic transition. This study describes the socioeconomic differences that currently exist in Chile between first-time mothers living in different family arrangements, and it asks to what extent these differences are the result of long term disadvantages passed on from the families the respondents grew up in. The data comes from a postpartum survey implemented in Santiago (N = 686 women). The results show large differences in the socioeconomic wellbeing of women in different family arrangements. Women in nuclear marriages stand far apart from any other group in terms of educational attainment, income and participation in the labor force. Cohabiters and married women in extended households enjoy a level of socioeconomic wellbeing that is similar, but not as high as that of married women in nuclear households. Cohabiters in extended households, visiting, and single mothers look alike, and are the most vulnerable women in the sample. The link between the current scenario and the family where the respondents grew up is strong. Under these circumstances, it is hard to interpret the recent demographic changes in Chilean families as a prototypical case of the SDT. The trend the country is following resembles closer the dichotomous trajectory the U.S. has followed.