Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



We gratefully acknowledge the support of the University of Pennsylvania and the Global Family Change Project (GFC-project, Funding for the GFC Project is provided through the National Science Foundation (Grant no. 1729185, PIs: Kohler & Furstenberg).


Using 254 Demographic and Health Surveys from 75 low- and middle-income countries, this study shows how the joint examination of family characteristics across rural and urban areas provides new insights for understanding global family change. We operationalize this approach by building family configurations: a set of interrelated features that describe different patterns of family formation and structure. These features include partnership (marriage/unions) regimes and their stability, gender relations, household composition, and reproduction. Factorial and clustering techniques allow us to summarize these family features into three factorial axes and six discrete family configurations. We provide an in-depth description of these configurations, their spatial distribution, and their changes over time. Global family change is uneven because it emerges from complex interplays between the relative steadiness of longstanding arrangements for forming families and organizing gender relations, and the rapidly changing dynamics observed in the realms of fertility, contraception, and timing of family formation.


Global Family Change, family configurations, family demography



Date Posted: 12 December 2019