More babies born out of wedlock than into married families for first time ever

The number of babies being born to mums who are unmarried or not in a civil partnership has overtaken the number being born to mums in such relationships

Published

It is the first time since records began in 1845 that there have been more babies being born out of wedlock, birth registration data shows.

There were 624,828 live births registered in England and Wales in 2021, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

This includes 320,713 live births to women who were not married or in a civil partnership when they gave birth – 51.3 percent of the total – compared to 304,115 live births to parents who were married or civilly partnered.

Dr James Tucker, head of health analysis 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.

A mother cradles the feet of her new born baby in her hand
A mother cradles the feet of her new born baby in her hand

“This follows the long-term trend of declining marriage rates and increasing numbers of cohabiting 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.”

The figures also show the fertility rate rose for the first time since 2012 – to 1.61 children per woman in 2021 from 1.58 in 2020.

The 2021 total fertility rate still remained below the rate observed in 2019.

The 624,828 live births registered in 2021 was a rise of 1.8 percent from 2020.

It is the first annual increase in live births since 2015, although this remains below the number of births registered in 2019.

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.
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.

And the latest year “remains in line” with the long-term trend of falling live births since before the coronavirus pandemic, the ONS said.

The ONS figures are based on birth registrations, and delays mean some births in 2021 may not be covered.

Within the overall increase in fertility, rates fell among younger groups and rose in older women.

The largest decrease was among women and girls under 20 years old (16 percent), while women aged 35 to 39 saw fertility rates increase by five percent.

Fertility rates increased across all regions of England in 2021, except for London and the West Midlands.

The figures also show there were 2,597 stillbirths in 2021, an increase of 226 from 2020.

Of the total number of live births in 2021, 445,055 were to UK-born women, 179,726 were to non-UK-born women, and in 47 births the country of the mum was not stated.

The percentage of live births to non-UK-born women decreased to 28.8 percent in 2021 from 29.3 percent in 2020.

This was similar to the percentage in 2019 and the result of a higher number of UK-born women giving birth.

Romania became the most common country of birth for non-UK-born mums in 2021, while Pakistan remained the most common country of birth for non-UK-born dads.