In 2014 there were 695,233 live births and 501,424 deaths registered in England and Wales. But how does this compare to the previous 100 years, and what important events have influenced trends?

The total number of live births in England and Wales decreased by 0.5% between 2013 and 2014. Across the twentieth century the number of live births have fluctuated, with sharp peaks at the end of World Wars 1 and 2. Live births peaked at near post-war levels again in 1964 (875,972 births), but since then lower numbers have been seen. The lowest recorded annual number of births in the twentieth century was 569,259 in 1977.

Live births in England and Wales decreased by 0.5% between 2013 and 2014

Annual number of births and deaths, England and Wales, 1915 to 2014

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The highest number of deaths over the century was recorded in 1918 at the end of World War 1, 1918 also saw the outbreak of the Spanish Flu pandemic. The chart shows a relatively small increase in deaths during World Wars 1 and 2, this is because the ONS doesn’t have records for the significant loss of life by the armed forces overseas. The increase during World War 2 was mainly due to rising infant mortality at the time.

Mum’s the word

The demographic characteristics of mothers have shown interesting changes over the last few decades. In 2014, there were 507,587 live births to UK born mothers compared to 187,610 to non-UK born mothers. Births to non-UK mothers accounted for 27% of all live births in 2014. This is the highest proportion of births to mothers born outside the UK since information on parents’ country of birth was first collected at birth registration in 1969.

The number of births to women born outside the UK has risen every year since 1995, with a marked rise since the turn of the century. Previous analysis using 2013 data shows that the European Union (EU), excluding the UK, represented 8.7% of all live births. Births to mothers born in one of the 13 countries that have joined the EU since April 2004 represented the majority of these births (6.1% of all live births). Mothers born in the Middle East and Asia contributed 9.5% of all live births while mothers born in Africa contributed 5.2%.1

27% of all live births in 2014 were to non-UK born mothers

Live births to non-UK born mothers2 and average age of mothers England and Wales, 1975 to 2014

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The average age of mothers is now 30.2 years. This increase in average age of mothers may be due to a number of factors such as increased participation in higher education3, increased female participation in the labour force, the increasing importance of a career, the rising opportunity costs of childbearing, labour market uncertainty, housing factors and instability of partnerships.

Almost half of all babies (47.5%) were born outside marriage/civil partnership in 2014

Live births outside marriage/civil partnership, England and Wales, 1945 to 2014

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In 2014 almost half of all babies were born outside marriage/civil partnership, compared with 42.2% in 2004 and only 8.8% in 1974. This continues the long-term rise in the percentage of births outside marriage/civil partnership, which is consistent with increases in the number of couples cohabiting rather than entering into marriage or civil partnership.

Infant mortality has fallen from 9.4 to 3.9 per 1,000 live births over the last three decades

Infant mortality rates, England and Wales, 1985 to 2014

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Infant4 mortality rates have continued to fall in England and Wales over the past 30 years, but the rates of change varied over the period. The change in the first half of the period was more than twice that in the second half. General improvements in healthcare and more specific improvements in midwifery and neonatal intensive care can partly explain the overall fall in the rate of change5. In 2014, the infant mortality rate was 3.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with 4.0 in 2013. This compares with an infant mortality rate of 9.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1985.

Footnotes:

  1. ONS (2014) Part of parents country of birth, England and Wales, 2013 Release. http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/parents--country-of-birth--england-and-wales/2013/stb-births-by-cob-2013.html#tab-Country-of-Birth-of-Foreign-Born-Mothers"
  2. EU04, EU07 and EU13 represent the European Union accession dates in the last decade.
  3. Ní Bhrolcháin, M and Beaujouan, E (2012) Fertility postponement is largely due to rising educational enrolment. Population Studies: A Journal of Demography. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00324728.2012.697569
  4. Mortality refers to deaths under 1 year. It can be divided into neonatal mortality, deaths under 28 days after live births, and post-neonatal mortality, deaths between 28 days and one year.
  5. National Childrens Bureau (2014) Why children die: death in infants, children and young people in the UK. http://www.ncb.org.uk/media/1130496/rcpch_ncb_may_2014_-_why_children_die__part_a.pdf