More than half of babies born outside of marriage for first time ever

·Data and Politics News Editor, Yahoo News UK
·3-min read
EMBARGOED TO 0001 WEDNESDAY JULY 27 File photo dated 23/01/16 of the feet of a new baby wrapped in a blanket, as trans men should be supported to chest-feed their babies should they choose to do so, a Royal College has said.
More than half of live births in England and Wales in 2021 were outside of marriage (PA Images)

More babies were born outside of marriage in England and Wales than within for the first time ever in 2021, official figures show.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there were 320,713 live births last year outside marriages or civil partnerships, compared to 304,115 live births within a marriage or civil partnership.

This means that 51.3% of babies were born outside of marriage, the first time the figure has been higher than half since this data was first recorded in 1845.

20 years ago, 40% of babies were born outside of marriage, and 30 years ago less than one in three births took place outside of marriage.

100 years ago just 4.5% of babies were born outside of marriage.

More babies were born outside marriage for the first time ever in 2021 (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)
More babies were born outside marriage for the first time ever in 2021 (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)
30 years ago, less than 1 in 3 babies was born outside marriage (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)
30 years ago, less than 1 in 3 babies was born outside marriage (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)

The ONS data shows the fertility rate in England and Wales has risen for the first time in around a decade.

There were 624,828 live births registered in 2021, up 1.8% from 2020, the first annual increase since 2015.

However the data is in line with the long-term trend of falling live births since before the coronavirus pandemic, the ONS said.

The total fertility rate, meaning the average number of children a woman has, increased to 1.61 children per woman in 2021, up from 1.58 in 2020 – the first rise since 2012.

Among women aged 35 to 39, fertility rates increase by 5%.

The mean age of a mother at childbirth in 2020 was 30.7, up from 28.5 20 years previously.

Dr James Tucker at the ONS said: “The number of live births registered outside marriage or civil partnership exceeded the number of births registered within marriage for the first time in 2021.

“This follows the long-term trend of declining marriage rates and increasing numbers of co-habiting couples seen in recent decades.

"However, caution should be taken in interpreting today’s numbers as we don’t yet know the full impact of the pandemic on marriage and civil partnership statistics.”

Read more: Major breakthrough on fertility treatment for lesbian couples

Official data continues to show that women are waiting until later in life to have children.

Figures published by the ONS in January showed that women over 30 were more likely than not to be childless for the first time.

Data revealed that 50.1% of women born in 1990 had not had children by this age.

They are the first cohort where half have not had a child by that age since records began in 1920.

Some 57% of women born in 1970 had become a mother by the time they reached 30, and 76% of those born in 1950 did so.

Amanda Sharfman, an ONS statistician, said: “We continue to see a delay in childbearing, with women born in 1990 becoming the first cohort where half of the women remain childless by their 30th birthday.

“Levels of childlessness by age 30 have been steadily rising since a low of 18% for women born in 1941.

“Lower levels of fertility in those currently in their 20s indicate that this trend is likely to continue.”