This bulletin presents statistics on live births in England and Wales in 2010 by characteristics of the mother. In particular, it provides birth statistics by age of mother, type of registration (within marriage/civil partnership, joint registration or sole registration), and average (mean) age of mother for all births and first births.
Babies born in England and Wales in 2010 were most likely to have a mother aged 25–34, with over a half (56 per cent) of mothers being in this age group. A further quarter (25 per cent of babies) were born to younger mothers, aged under 25, while a fifth (20 per cent) had mothers aged 35 and over at the time of birth. Compared with a decade earlier, this represents an increase in the contribution of mothers aged 35 and over (17 per cent in 2000) and a decrease in the contribution of mothers aged 25–34 (58 per cent in 2000).
Fathers tend to be older than mothers. Nearly half of all babies born (48 per cent) had mothers aged 30 and over, but nearly two-thirds (64 per cent of babies) had fathers aged 30 and over (sole registered births, where the father’s information is not available have been excluded). The percentage of fathers aged 30 and over has remained relatively unchanged over the last decade (64 per cent of babies were fathered by men in this age group in 2000).
In 2010 the standardised average (mean) age of women giving birth in England and Wales was 29.5 years, a small increase compared with 29.4 years in 2009. This compares with 28.5 years in 2000. These figures refer to all births; however, the standardised average age of women having a first birth in 2010 was estimated to be 27.8 years of age, compared with 27.6 in 2009 and 26.5 in 2000.
These trends reflect the postponement of childbearing to later ages. Increasing proportions of women have been delaying their childbearing. This may be due to a number of factors such as increased participation in higher education, delayed marriage and partnership formation, and the desire to establish a career, get on the housing ladder and ensure financial stability before starting a family. (Jefferies J, 2008) (297 Kb Pdf)
Marriage or civil partnership (see background note 4) remains the most common family setting for births in England and Wales as a whole despite the steady fall in the percentage of births registered to married couples over the last three decades. In 2010 just over half of births occurred within marriage or civil partnership (53 per cent) compared with 61 per cent in 2000 and 88 per cent in 1980.
The percentage of births occurring outside marriage or civil partnership (47 per cent overall in 2010) varies considerably by age. Almost all women (96 per cent) aged under 20 who gave birth in 2010 were not married or in civil partnership. In contrast, at ages 30–34 and 35–39 the majority of women giving birth were either married or in a civil partnership, with only 30 per cent of births outside marriage/civil partnership, the lowest percentage across all the age groups.
In 2010, the percentage of births occurring outside marriage or civil partnership was higher for all age groups compared with 2009 and 2000, with the exception of women aged 45 and over. In this age group, the percentage of births outside marriage/civil partnership declined slightly between 2009 (35.8 per cent) and 2010 (34.7 per cent).
Births outside marriage or civil partnership can be registered jointly by both the mother and father/second parent (see background note 4), or solely by the mother. Where the birth is jointly registered and the parents give the same address, it can be inferred that they are cohabiting. The proportion of births registered to cohabiting parents has increased in recent years, reaching 31 per cent of all births in 2010, compared with 30 per cent in 2009 and 25 per cent in 2000. This trend is consistent with increases in the number of couples cohabiting rather than entering into marriage or civil partnership. (Families and Households, 2012) In contrast, the percentage of births registered solely by the mother has fallen very slightly over the last ten years to 5.9 per cent in 2010 compared with 6.2 per cent in 2009 and 7.6 per cent in 2000.
Overall, 84 per cent of births in 2010 were to parents who were married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting (couples who are not married but are living together). Of the remainder, a further 10 per cent of births were registered jointly by parents living at separate addresses, while only 6 per cent were registered by the mother alone.
Births to mothers aged under 25 are the most likely to be jointly registered by cohabiting parents, while for women aged 25–29 and older, marriage/civil partnership is the most common family setting for births, followed by cohabitation. Furthermore, the percentage of births which are either jointly registered by parents living at different addresses or solely registered by the mother is higher among women aged under 25 than among older mothers.
A more detailed analysis of births by registration type, 1991 to 2008, is available in Population Trends. (O'Leary L, 2010) (2.5 Mb Pdf)
The Office for National Statistics uses birth statistics to:
• Produce population estimates and population projections, both national and subnational
• Produce marital status estimates
• Quality assure census estimates
• Report on social and demographic trends
The Department for Education is a key user of birth statistics by registration type since the department regards joint birth registration as an important first step for parents and children.
The Department of Health is a key user of birth statistics. Data are used, for example, to plan maternity services and inform policy decisions. Other key users of the data are local authorities and other government departments, who use the data for planning and resource allocation.
Other users include academics, demographers and health researchers who conduct research into trends and characteristics. Lobby groups use birth statistics to support their cause, for example, campaigns against midwife shortages. Special interest groups, such as Birth Choice UK, make the data available to enable comparisons between maternity units to help women choose where they might like to give birth. Organisations such as Eurostat and the UN use birth statistics for making international comparisons. The media also report on key trends in births.
Tables on live births in England and Wales by characteristics of mother (age of mother including mean age by birth order and type of registration).
The Excel file providing the data tables for the release also contains information on the other birth statistics packages released throughout the year and provides links to these packages on the ONS website.
The ‘Characteristics of mother 2’ package will be published later in the year. This package will contain:
• fertility rates by marital status
• live births within marriage by age of mother and number of previous live-born children
• first live births within marriage by marriage duration.
Further publication dates of detailed 2010 birth statistics are available on the publication hub.
Births metadata (375.7 Kb Pdf) which provides further information on data quality, legislation and procedures relating to births is available.
A Summary Quality Report for births (117.8 Kb Pdf) which provides information on statistical quality and the methods used to compile the data is available.
An interactive mapping tool which enables trends in fertility to be analysed at the local level is available.
1. Jefferies J (2008) (297 Kb Pdf) Fertility Assumptions for the 2006-based national population projections, Population Trends 131 pp 19-27.
2. Office for National Statistics: Statistics on families and households (2012).
3. O'Leary L, Natamba E, Jefferies J and Wilson (2010) (2.5 Mb Pdf) Fertility and partnership status in the last two decades, Population Trends 140 pp 5-35.
There were 723,165 live births in England and Wales in 2010, compared with 706,248 in 2009, a rise of 2.4 per cent. The rise in 2010 represents a continuation of the increasing numbers of live births recorded since 2001. During this period the number of live births has risen by 22 per cent from 594,634 in 2001 despite a small fall between 2008 and 2009.
Percentages reported in this bulletin may not sum to 100 due to rounding.
Births outside marriage can be registered jointly by both the mother and father, or solely by the mother. No information on the father is available for sole registered births.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 contained provisions enabling two females in a same-sex couple to register a birth from 1 September 2009 onwards. Due to the small numbers in England and Wales in 2009 and 2010, births registered to a same-sex couple in a civil partnership (22 in 2009, 335 in 2010) are combined with marital births while births registered to a same-sex couple outside a civil partnership (2 in 2009, 140 in 2010) are combined with births outside marriage. For births registered under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, 2008, the age of second parent has been included with age of father. Given the relatively small number of births registered to same-sex couples, this has a negligible impact on the statistics.
The standardised mean age is a measure which allows fertility trends to be separated out from the effects of changes in the population’s age structure. It is therefore useful for comparing mean ages across population subgroups and over time.
At birth registration, the number of previous births is only collected for births within marriage. This partial information on birth order from registration data is supplemented with data from the General Lifestyle Survey (formerly known as the General Household Survey) to give estimates of true birth order. The average age at first birth is based on the estimated true birth order for all births whether inside or outside marriage.
Special extracts and tabulations of births data for England and Wales are available to order for a charge (subject to legal frameworks, disclosure control, resources and agreement of costs, where appropriate). Such enquiries should be made to:
Vital Statistics Output Branch
Health and Life Events Division
Office for National Statistics
Hampshire PO15 5RR
Tel: +44 (0)1329 444110
We welcome feedback from users on the content, format and relevance of this release. The Health and Life Events user engagement strategy (95.1 Kb Pdf) is available to download from the ONS website. Please send feedback to the postal or e-mail address above.
Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available from the Media Relations Office.
National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference. © Crown copyright 2011.
Next publication: October/November 2012
For information about the content of this publication:
Tel: Elizabeth McLaren +44 (0)1329 444110
Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: firstname.lastname@example.org
These National Statistics are produced to high professional standards and released according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.
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