The Role of Family Law in Shaping Variation in Family Behavior: Insights From the Swiss-French Border Region Around Geneva

Sebastian Kluesener , Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB)
Jonathan Zufferey, Université de Genève

It is usually difficult to separate the impact of family legislation from other factors that affect family formation. Here we analyze a quasi-natural experiment setting which potentially allows us to identify the role of policies. The Swiss-French border region around the Swiss city of Geneva is economically and linguistically highly integrated. Nevertheless, since the 1970s the borderline between Switzerland and France in this region has emerged as a drastic non-marital fertility divide, with Switzerland reporting much lower levels. It has been argued that the conservative Swiss family law is highly relevant for understanding this divide. We use individual-level register data for the canton of Geneva to study family formation trends around a recent Swiss family law reform that strengthened the legal position of fathers of non-marital children. Our analysis shows that after the reform particularly among couples with a Swiss father the likelihood of a first birth outside marriage increased.

See paper

 Presented in Session 21. Public Policy, Normative Values, and Cohabitation