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Popul Trends. 2010 Summer;(140):5-35. doi: 10.1057/pt.2010.10.

Fertility and partnership status in the last two decades.

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  • 1Office for National Statistics.


The family context in which babies are born is of continuing interest to policy makers. This article begins by reviewing trends in births within and outside marriage in England and Wales in the last two decades. It then examines the driving factors behind the ongoing rise in the proportion of births outside marriage, with particular focus on the proportion of married women of childbearing age, and changes in marital and non-marital fertility rates. Given the variety of modern living arrangements into which children are born, the emphasis of the article then shifts to non-marital births within cohabiting partnerships. For the first time estimates of fertility for cohabiting women of different ages are presented. These are based on information collected at birth registration and survey estimates of the cohabiting population. Fertility rates for cohabiting women are then compared with those of married women and other (non-married, non-cohabiting) women. Although there are limitations to the methodology, the article shows that over the past two decades, cohabiting women in England and Wales have had an overall level of fertility below that of married women but considerably above that of other unmarried women.

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