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July 4, 2013 / C H Thompson

Fertility rates and average family size

Over the past century the UK birth rate has been in decline and there’s there is plentiful academic debate about the reasons for these low fertility rates and reduction in average family size which are evident in these two papers Delayed Childbearing and Childbearing On Hold. The extent of these changes is evident in the 2013 childbearing data.

The growth in cohabitation as helped remove the stigma of births outside marriage to the extent the number of births outside marriage has increased to around 40% of all births. At the same time women are having fewer children or having them later in life or indeed remaining childless which has increased over the past 70 years.

Beck (1992) suggests this latter change is due to the increasing contradiction between women’s domestic roles and paid employment. But it could also be due to the rising cost of childcare.

Many factors affect childbearing behaviour, and hence fertility levels:

  • increased education and economic independence among females
  • high and rising aspirations have created a need for a second incomeuk demographics
  • encouraged women’s participation in the labour force
  • both sexes investing more in their careers
  • cheaper and readily available contraception
  • increased secularisation of society
  • society’s attitudes and people are increasingly less constrained by social norms
  • rise in the importance attached to the individual and freedom of choice including life and leisure choices
  • children are very expensive to raise as their individual needs for clothing, after-school clubs, tuition/school fees
  • people have also retreated from permanent commitments and are more cautious about investing their identity in family because of the increased probability of separation and divorce

Follow this link for the data on the demographic differences between countries

Return to family overview

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