In 2012, nearly half (49%) of all live births were to mothers aged 30 and over
In 2012, nearly two-thirds (65%) of fathers were aged 30 and over (excluding births registered solely by the mother)
In 2012, the standardised average age of mothers for all births was 29.8 years
In 2012, for first births the standardised average age of mothers was 28.1 years
In 2012, 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 2012 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 2012 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. Birth statistics for 2012 showing the average age of mother by birth order are also released for the first time.Back to table of contents
Babies born in England and Wales in 2012 were most likely to have a mother aged 25-34, with over a half (57%) of mothers in this age group. A further 23% of babies were born to younger mothers, aged under 25, while a fifth (20%) had mothers aged 35 and over at the time of birth.
In 2012 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.
Fathers tend to be older than mothers (Figure 2). Nearly half of all babies born in 2012 (49%) had mothers aged 30 and over, but nearly two-thirds (65% 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 (66% of babies were fathered by men in this age group in 2002).
In 2012 the standardised average (mean) age of all mothers giving birth in England and Wales was 29.8 years, a small increase compared with 29.7 years in 2011 (see background note 6 for more information).
Between the mid-1940s and mid-1970s, the average age of mother decreased by just under 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 (Jefferies, 2008 (297 Kb Pdf); Ní Bhrolcháin, et al., 2012).
These figures refer to all births; however, the standardised average age of women having a first birth in 2012 was estimated to be 28.1 years of age, compared with 27.9 in 2011 and 26.8 in 2002 (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 2012 just over half of births occurred within marriage or civil partnership (53%) compared with 59% in 2002 and 93% in 1962.
The percentage of births occurring outside marriage or civil partnership (47% in 2012) varies considerably by age. Almost all women (96%) aged under 20 who gave birth in 2012 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 31% of births outside marriage/civil partnership for each, the lowest percentage across all the age groups.
In 2012, the percentage of births occurring outside marriage or civil partnership was higher for all age groups compared with 2002.
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 2002 and 10% in 1986 (the first year figures for cohabiting parents are available). This trend is consistent with increases in the number of couples cohabiting rather than entering into marriage or civil partnership (for further information, 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 to 5.7% in 2012 from 7.2% in 2002. In 1986 7.2% of births were registered by the mother alone.
Overall, 84% of births in 2012 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 5.7% 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 25-29 and older, 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) (2.5 Mb Pdf) provides a more detailed analysis of births by registration type, 1991 to 2008.Back to table of contents
During May 2012 changes were made to the Population Statistics Act 1938, which means that information on the number of previous children and whether previously married is now collected from all mothers at birth registration and not just from married women. This will have an impact on a number of tables and proposals for changes (66.2 Kb Pdf) to outputs for 2012 and 2013 data were outlined on the ONS website in July 2012. Feedback from users was invited. No feedback was received and so the outlined changes are being implemented.
Changes to the tables included within Live Births by socio-economic status of father have also been considered, including implementing the combined method for deriving the National Statistics Socio-economic classification (using the higher NS-SEC of both parents rather than the NS-SEC of the father). A proposal for changes to outputs for 2012 data (63.5 Kb Pdf) was published on the ONS website in February 2013. Feedback from users was invited. No feedback was received so the outlined changes will be implemented.Back to table of contents
The Office for National Statistics uses birth statistics to:
produce population estimates and population projections, both national and subnational
quality assure census estimates
report on social and demographic trends
The Department of Health (DH) is a key user of birth statistics. Data are used, for example, to plan maternity services, inform policy decisions and monitor child mortality. Public Health Outcomes Framework sets out the desired outcomes for public health and how these will be 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 (DWP) 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 births data to inform future demand. Organisations such as Eurostat and the United Nations (UN) 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
Telephone: +44 (0)1329 444110