November 30, 2015

More babies born to women aged 35 and over than to under-25s, UK data show

There were more babies in England and Wales born to women aged 35 and over than to those under 25 for the first time in 2014, according to official figures.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that women 35 and over accounted for 21% of births, compared to 20% for under-25s.

The average age for people having babies in 2014 was 30.2 for women and 33.1 for men, with 28.5 the average age for a first-time mother. These all represented slight increases compared to 2013.

David Richmond, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, told the Guardian that while the trend to have children later in life is unlikely to be reversed, people having children from their mid-30s onwards are more likely to face fertility issues and medical complications.

Dr Richmond commented that: “More could also be done as a society to support women who would like to start a family earlier. For example, maternity pay, job security, access to flexible working and the cost of childcare are all prohibitive factors.”

Massimiliano Bratti has written for IZA World of Labor about the labor market implications of postponing childbearing. He writes that: “While studies find that women who postpone childbearing do have a stronger labor market attachment, they also find that these women are more likely to have fewer children. Countries may want to lessen this tradeoff by investing in family-friendly policies. Examples include the provision of public childcare services, incentives to private firms to provide childcare services, and promotion of paternal leave policies to improve the gender balance in childrearing.”

Read more on this story at the Guardian. The ONS data are available here.

Related articles:
Fertility postponement and labor market outcomes by Massimiliano Bratti
Can government policies reverse undesirable declines in fertility? by Elizabeth Brainerd
Find more IZA World of Labor articles on demography, family, and gender