Population Matters

Hatches and dispatches: fewer births and deaths in 2016

Hatches and dispatches: fewer births and deaths in 2016

BabyThe latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show a slight decline in number of births in the UK in 2016 and a small fall in the number of deaths. The population of the UK continues to climb, however, as a result of net migration. Meanwhile, a report in the US ascribes a declining fertility rate to a smaller number of births among younger women.

Births in the UK

In 2016, there were 774,835 live births in the UK, a decrease of 0.3% from 777,165 in 2015. There were 597,206 deaths, a fall of just under 1%. The UK’s total fertility rate (or TFR, meaning the number of children a fertile woman would be expected to have in her lifetime) is currently 1.81, below the “replacement rate” of 2.1. The global average TFR is a little under 2.5. The UK has a higher fertility rate than most EU countries, however, and it has not changed significantly in the last 25 years.

Population growth

The UK population continues to grow despite a below-replacement fertility rate because numbers of births currently exceed numbers of deaths by a small amount and because of net migration. Immigration has grown the UK population by approximately 250,000 people per year on average since 2004.

In its latest projections released in October 2017, the ONS anticipates a UK population of 73m by 2041, and 85m by 2116. Over the next 10 years, it expects 54 per cent of population growth in the UK to be caused by net migration and 46 per cent to be the result of “natural increase”, ie a greater number of births than deaths.

Births in the US – the “baby bust”

US fertility rates graph
Credit: Negative Population Growth

A report by Negative Population Growth details how number of births in the US has fallen in recent years, with “millennials” (people born in the 1980s and early-mid 1990s) having far fewer children than preceding generations. The study shows that the number of babies born in the US dropped by 338,000 (approximately 9%) between 2007 and 2016. The US birth rate (number of babies born per 1,000 people in the population) has dropped from nearly 70 to 62.

One of the most striking features of the analysis conducted by Negative Population Growth is the decline in childbearing among millennials.  According to the report:

“Mothers ages 20-24 and 25-29 also saw significant declines [in number of babies born per 1,000], down 30% and 12%, respectively. Birth rates for all age groups of women under 30 fell to record lows in 2016.

Fertility rates for women in their 30s and 40s increased, but not enough to offset the lower rates of their millennial counterparts. As a result, the national fertility rate (all ages) fell 11% between 2007 and 2016.”

The US TFR is now also a little above 1.8. The US population continues to grow largely because of net migration.

Millennial moms

The report ascribes the lower birth rate among millennials to a number of factors, with relative economic disadvantage a key driver. With lower wages and higher accommodation costs in real terms, millennials are living with their parents longer, marrying less and delaying childbirth. Some do not want to add to the population for environmental reasons and others are fearful for the future of children born today.

The report cites a 2013 study which found that 58% of millennial female undergraduates do not plan to have children – up from 22% in 1992.

Find out more

Smaller families are better for all of us. Explore more about the reasons for having a smaller family and about life in smaller families.

Confused by the jargon? You can find a glossary of population terms here.

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