In 2013, over half (51%) of all live births were to mothers aged 30 and over
Nearly two-thirds (66%) of fathers were aged 30 and over in 2013 (excluding births registered solely by the mother)
The average age of all mothers increased to 30.0 years in 2013, compared with 29.8 years in 2012
The average age of first time mothers was 28.3 years in 2013, compared with 28.1 years in 2012
In 2013, 84% of babies were registered by parents who were married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting
This bulletin presents statistics on live births in England and Wales in 2013 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.
Many of the key summary figures included in this release have been published previously by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This is however the first time that birth statistics for 2013 have been published by registration type (including a breakdown by age of mother and father), single year of age of mother and age of father. Also released for the first time are birth statistics for 2013 showing the average age of mother by birth order (first child, second child, etc).Back to table of contents
Babies born in England and Wales in 2013 were most likely to have a mother aged 25-34, with over a half (59%) of mothers in this age group. A further 21% of babies were born to mothers aged under 25, while 20% had mothers aged 35 and over at the time of birth.
In 2013 the number of births to mothers aged 25-34 was more than double the number to mothers aged under 25; this trend has been recorded every year since 1993 (Figure 1). In contrast, between 1967 and 1971 births to mothers aged under 25 exceeded births to mothers aged 25-34.
The number of births in a given year is dependent on the number of women in the key childbearing ages (15-44 years) and on fertility rates in that year. Compared with 2012, the number of live births in 2013 decreased for women in all age groups.
For women aged under 25 and 35 and over, the fall in births resulted from falling fertility alongside an estimated decrease in the number of women in these age groups between mid-2012 and mid-2013. The decrease in births to women aged 25-34 in 2013 resulted from falling fertility at these ages since the estimated female population in these age groups increased.
Fathers tend to be older than mothers (Figure 2). Nearly two-thirds (66%) of babies in 2013 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 (67% of babies were fathered by men in this age group in 2003).
In 2013 the standardised average (mean) age of all mothers giving birth in England and Wales was 30.0 years, a small increase compared with 29.8 years in 2012 (see background note 6).
Between the mid-1940s and mid-1970s, the average age of mother decreased by just less than three years (29.3 years in 1944 to 26.4 years in 1973). Since 1973 the average age of mother has generally increased. The overall rise since 1973 reflects the increasing numbers of women who have been delaying childbearing to later ages. Possible influences include; increased participation in higher education, 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 (Ní Bhrolcháin et al, 2012).
These figures refer to all births; however, the standardised average age of women having a first birth in 2013 was estimated to be 28.3 years of age, compared with 28.1 in 2012 and 27.0 in 2003 (see background note 7). Changes in the average age of mother for first births since 1940 mirror changes in the average age of all mothers.Back to table of contents
Marriage or civil partnership (see background note 5) 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 since the 1960s. In 2013 just over half of births occurred within marriage or civil partnership (53%) compared with 59% in 2003 and 93% in 1963.
The percentage of births occurring outside marriage or civil partnership (47% in 2013) varies considerably by age. Almost all women (96%) aged under 20 who gave birth in 2013 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 32% of births outside marriage/civil partnership for each, the lowest percentage across all the age groups.
In 2013, the percentage of births occurring outside marriage or civil partnership was higher for all age groups compared with 2003.
Births outside marriage or civil partnership can be registered jointly by both the mother and father/second parent (see background note 5), 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 (couples who are not married but living together). The proportion of births registered to cohabiting parents has increased in recent years (Figure 3) but has remained unchanged since 2010 at 31% of all births, compared with 26% in 2003 and 10% in 1986 (the first year these figures were available). This trend is consistent with increases in the number of couples cohabiting rather than entering into marriage or civil partnership (see Statistics on Families and Households). In contrast, the percentage of births registered solely by the mother has fallen slightly over the last ten years from 7.2% in 2003 to 5.6% in 2013. In 1986 7.2% of births were registered by the mother alone.
Overall, 84% of births in 2013 were to parents who were married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting. Of the remainder, a further 11% of births were registered jointly by parents living at separate addresses, while only 5.6% were registered by the mother alone.
Births to mothers aged under 25 were most likely to be jointly registered by cohabiting parents, while for women aged 25 and over, marriage/civil partnership was the most common family setting for births, followed by cohabitation (Figure 4). The percentage of births which were either jointly registered by parents living at different addresses or solely registered by the mother was higher among women aged under 25 than among older mothers.
O’Leary et al (2010) provides a more detailed analysis of births by registration type for the period 1991 to 2008.Back to table of contents
During May 2012 changes were made to the Population Statistics Act 1938. This means that information on the number of previous children and whether previously married are now collected from all mothers at birth registration, not just from married women. This will have an impact on a number of tables and proposals for changes to outputs for 2012 and 2013 data were outlined on the ONS website in July 2012. Feedback from users was requested. No feedback was received so the proposed changes are being implemented.
These changes have affected tables 4a, 4b and 5 (480 Kb Excel sheet) in this release, which provide statistics by birth order. For birth registrations prior to May 2012, the partial information on birth order from registration data was supplemented with data from the General Lifestyle Survey to give estimates of true birth order. From May 2012 information on the number of previous children collected from all mothers at birth registration has been used. Data for 2013 represents the first full year of information available on the number of previous children collected at registration.
A paper describing the changes that have occurred to ONS birth statistics as a result of improvements to the Population Statistics Act is available on the ONS website. It provides background to the changes and provides high level findings from the new data collected in 2012 and 2013.
An investigation of Childbearing by registration status in England and Wales, using birth registration data for 2012 and 2013 examines the patterns and characteristics in birth registrations following the improvements to the data collected at birth registration. The principal characteristics explored in the paper relate to whether a woman has been previously married, and whether the birth is the mother’s first child or subsequent child.Back to table of contents
The Office for National Statistics uses birth statistics to:
produce population estimates and population projections at both national and subnational levels
quality assure census estimates
report on social and demographic trends
The Department of Health is a key user of birth statistics. Data are used, for example, to plan maternity services, inform policy decisions and monitor child mortality. The Public Health Outcomes Framework sets out the desired outcomes for public health and how these are measured. This includes indicators related to births. Similar indicators are also included within the NHS Outcomes Framework.
Other key users of the data are local authorities and other government departments for planning and resource allocation. For example, local authorities use birth statistics to decide how many school places will be needed in a given area. The Department for Work and Pensions uses detailed birth statistics to feed into statistical models they use for pensions and benefits.
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 school closures and 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. Retailers use birth data to inform future demand. Organisations such as Eurostat and the United Nations use birth statistics for making international comparisons. The media also report on key trends and statistics.Back to table of contents
Contact details for this Statistical bulletin
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