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New records reveal childbearing age for women born in different years

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The average completed family size for women in England and Wales who reached the age of 45 in 2017 is the lowest on record, a new survey from Office for National Statistics has revealed.

The changing composition of families over time, compares the fertility of women of the same age and the number of children they have had. The findings show:

  • The average completed family size for women in England and Wales who reached the age of 45 years in 2017 was 1.89 children, the lowest level recorded to date.

  • Of the women who reached the age of 45 years in 2017, 18% were childless at the end of their childbearing years compared to 10% a generation before (born 1945).

  • The most common age of childbirth for women born in 1972 who reached age 45 years in 2017 was 31 years, compared to between 23 and 24 years for women born in 1945.

  • A quarter of women who reached age 25 years in 2017 had at least one child – the lowest percentage on record.

A fall in completed family size

The average completed family size has fallen below 1.90 for the first time. Women born in England and Wales in 1972, that is those who turned 45 years in 2017, had an average completed family size of 1.89 children per woman, the smallest since the series began for women born in 1920.

In comparison, women from the previous generation born in 1945 (who we assume to be the mothers of the women born in 1972 based on the average age of mothers at childbirth in 1972 being 27 years), had an average completed family size of 2.19 children per woman.

Women less likely to have a child before age 25

By their 25th birthday, 60% of women born in 1945 had had at least one child. Breaking this down further, 27% of women had one child, 23% had two children, 7% had three children and 3% had four or more. For women born in 1972, the picture had changed by age 25 years – only 33% had had at least one child, just over half the proportion for women born in 1945.

The 1992 birth cohort are the latest to reach exact age 25 years in 2017, and they have continued this decline – only 25% had one or more children by age 25 years. This is the lowest recorded percentage to date.

Most common age at childbirth continue to increase

Fertility rates (live births per thousand women of childbearing age) continue to rise mainly for women over 30 years but are declining for those younger than 30 years. Childbearing in teenage years remains low, as just 6% of 20-year-old women from the 1997 cohort had given birth by age 20 years.

There has been a gradual decline since the 1991 cohort in which 10% of women had given birth by age 20 years. In the 1945 cohort, 17% had had at least one child by age 20 years, almost treble the percentage of the 1997 cohort.

Read the full report here.

QUICK LINK: Interactive chart - top baby names since 1904

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