The Office for National Statistics has recently published a statistical release showing that there were 723,913 live births in England and Wales in 2011, increasing slightly (by 0.1%) from 723,165 in 2010.
Fertility levels have risen for women in all age groups since 2001 with the exception of those aged under 20. The largest percentage increase in fertility was for women aged 40 and over followed by women aged 35–39, with increases of 61% and 50% respectively. Fertility rates for women aged 20–24, 25–29 and 30–34 have increased by 4%, 14% and 27% respectively since 2001. In contrast fertility rates among women aged under 20 fell by 24% over the same period.
These changes in age-specific fertility have resulted in the average age of mother rising to 29.7 years in 2011 compared with 28.6 years in 2001. The average age of mothers has generally increased since 1973, reflecting 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.
Around 47% of all babies were born outside marriage/civil partnership in 2011, compared with 46.8% in 2010 and 40.0% in 2001. This is consistent with a rise in the number of couples choosing to cohabit rather than marry or enter a civil partnership.
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