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Birth within marriage or civil partnership remains most common family setting

Steady fall in the percentage of births registered to married couples since the 1960s

Marriage or civil partnership remains the most common family setting for births in England and Wales as a whole, despite the steady fall in the percentage of births registered to married couples since the 1960s. This is demonstrated by Births by Parents' Characteristics in England and Wales, 2014, recently released by the Office for National Statistics.

In 2014 just over half of births occurred within marriage or civil partnership (53%) compared with 58% in 2004 and 93% in 1964. The percentage of births occurring outside marriage or civil partnership (47% in 2014) varies considerably by age. Almost all women (96%) aged under 20 who gave birth in 2014 were not married or in civil partnership. In contrast, at ages 30 to 34 and 35 to 39 the majority of women giving birth were either married or in a civil partnership, with only 33% and 32% of births outside marriage/civil partnership respectively; the lowest percentage across all the age groups.

In 2014, the percentage of births occurring outside marriage or civil partnership was higher for all age groups compared with 2004. Babies born within marriage/civil partnership are more likely to have an older father. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of babies born within marriage/civil partnership in 2014 had fathers aged 30 to 39. For babies born outside marriage/civil partnership 38% had fathers aged 30 to 39 while 50% had fathers aged under 30.

Births outside marriage or civil partnership can be registered jointly by both the mother and father/ second parent, or solely by the mother. Where the birth is jointly registered and the parents give the same address, it can be inferred that they are cohabiting (couples who are not married but living together). The proportion of births registered to cohabiting parents has increased in recent years with 32% of all births being registered to cohabiting parents in 2014, compared with 27% in 2004 and 10% in 1986 (the first year these figures were available). This trend is consistent with increases in the number of couples cohabiting rather than entering into marriage or civil partnership. In contrast, the percentage of births registered solely by the mother has fallen slightly over the last 10 years from 7.1% in 2004 to 5.4% in 2014. In 1986 7.2% of births were registered by the mother alone.

Overall, 84% of births in 2014 were to parents who were married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting. Of the remainder, a further 10% of births were registered jointly by parents living at separate addresses, while only 5.4% were registered by the mother alone.

The statistical bulletin is here.

19/11/15