Volume 45 - Article 29 | Pages 903–916 Author has provided data and code for replicating results

English fertility heads south: Understanding the recent decline

By John Ermisch

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Date received:31 May 2021
Date published:05 Oct 2021
Word count:2424
Keywords:cross-validation, fertility, panel data, parity progression, period fertility, United Kingdom
Additional files:readme.45-29 (text file, 2 kB)
 demographic-research.45-29 (zip file, 91 kB)


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

John Ermisch - University of Oxford, United Kingdom [Email]

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» The distributional impact of COVID-19: Geographic variation in mortality in England
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» Educational reproduction in Europe: A descriptive account
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» Fertility expectations and residential mobility in Britain
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