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There were 624,828 live births registered in England and Wales in 2021, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. This included 320,713 live births to women who were not married or in a civil partnership when they gave birth – 51.3 percent of the total.
It compared with 304,115 live births to parents who were married or civilly partnered.
It is the first time since records began in 1845 that more babies were born to mothers who were not in marriages or civil partnerships.
Dr James Tucker, head of health analysis at the ONS, said: “The number of live births registered outside marriage or civil partnership exceeded the number of births registered within marriage for the first time in 2021.”
“This follows the long-term trend of declining marriage rates and increasing numbers of cohabiting couples seen in recent decades.”
“Caution should be taken in interpreting today’s numbers as we don’t yet know the full impact of the pandemic on marriage and civil partnership statistics.”
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.
Fertility rates increased across all regions of England in 2021, except for London and the West Midlands.
Romania became the most common country of birth for non-UK-born mothers in 2021, while Pakistan remained the most common country of birth for non-UK-born fathers.
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