Volume 45 - Article 29 | Pages 903–916  

English fertility heads south: Understanding the recent decline

By John Ermisch


Background: Fertility in England fell substantially during the past decade. The total fertility rate reached its historically lowest level in 2020.

Objective: To improve our understanding of the decline in English fertility by using data on individual women during 2009–2020 from Understanding Society, which is a panel survey of the members of approximately 40,000 households.

Methods: Estimation of a model of age and parity-specific birth rates on individual data, including year-effects, and cross-validation of it with external sources from registration data. Translation of the parameter estimates into more easily interpreted concepts such as period parity progression ratios and the total fertility rate (along with the standard errors for each).

Results: The decline in first-birth rates appears to be primarily responsible for the decline in the TFR during the past decade, and women with an education below degree level experienced a larger fertility decline.

Conclusions: If recent period fertility patterns are sustained, England is embarking on a regime of a high level of childlessness not seen since that among women born in the early 1920s.

Contribution: Individual-level panel data is used to estimate a model of parity-specific birth rates, which is cross-validated against registration data and used to provide insights into what lies behind the recent decline in English fertility.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

The distributional impact of COVID-19: Geographic variation in mortality in England
Volume 44 - Article 17

Educational reproduction in Europe: A descriptive account
Volume 41 - Article 49

Fertility expectations and residential mobility in Britain
Volume 35 - Article 54

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