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In the News

Sociology in the News: The rise of unmarried parents

Vicki Woolven

17th August 2022

ONS figures show that for the first time more babies are being born to unmarried couples in England and Wales. But how much of this is down to Covid-19?

As the I newspaper reports, new ONS statistics reveal that in 2021 the number born to mothers who were unmarried or not in a civil partnership has overtaken the number being born to mothers in such relationships. There were 624,828 live births registered in England and Wales in 2021, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, including 320,713 live births to women who were not married or in a civil partnership when they delivered - 51.3% of the total - compared to 304,115 live births to parents who were married or civilly partnered.

The count coincided with theCovid-19 lockdown, when weddings and civil partnership ceremonies were not allowed. However the ONS states that the figures followed a "long-term trend of declining marriage rates and increasing numbers of cohabiting couples seen in recent decades".

Long-term trends

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, and that the 624,828 live births registered in 2021 was a rise of 1.8% from 2020, but remains lower than the figure from 2019. And the latest year "remains in line" with the long-term trend of falling live births since before the coronavirus pandemic, the ONS said., but 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%), while women aged 35 to 39 saw fertility rates increase by 5%. Fertility rates increased across all regions of England in 2021, except for London and the West Midlands.

Vicki Woolven

Vicki Woolven is Subject Lead for Key Stage 4 Humanities at tutor2u. Vicki previously worked as a Head of Geography and Sociology for many years, leading her department to be one of the GA's first Centres of Excellent, and has been a content writer, senior examiner and local authority Key Practitioner for Humanities.

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