Demography: Births


The total fertility rate

Factors determining birth rate:

  • Proportion of women at childbearing age
  • How fertile they are

Total fertility rate (TFR) = average number of children women will having during their fertile years

UK's TFR has risen in recent years but still lower than in the past - all time low of 1.63 in 2001 and rose to 1.83 by 2014 whereas it was 2.95 in 1964

These changes in fertility & birth rates reflect the fact that:

  • More women remaining childless than in the past
  • Women are postponing having children - older women may be less fertile so end up producing less children
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Changes in women's position

Reason for decline in birth rate:

  • Legal equality w/ men
  • Increased educational opportunities
  • More women in paid employment
  • Changes in attitudes
  • Easier access to divorce
  • Access to abortion & reliable contraception = more control over fertility

Sarah Harper (2012) = Education is most important reason = led to changed mind-set = fewer children

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Decline in the infant mortality rate

IMR = number of infants who die before 1st birthday, per thousands babies born alive, per year

Harper = fall in IMR = fall in birth rate = parents more likely to replace infant who dies but if infants survive, parents will have fewer of them

1900 = IMR for UK was 154 (15% babies died within 1st year)

Reasons why IMR began to fall in 1st half of 20th century:

  • Improved housing & sanitation e.g. flush toilets & clean drinking water = reduced infectious disease
  • Better nutrition
  • Better knowledge
  • Improved services for mothers & children e.g. postnatal clinics
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Children are now an economic liability

  • Laws banned child labour, introduced compulsory schooling and raised school leaving age = children remain economically dependent on parents for longer
  • Changing norms of children's expectations from parents in material terms = cost of bringing up children has risen

As a result of these financial pressures, parents now feel less able/willing than in the past to have a large family

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Child centredness

Child centredness of family & wider society = childhood now socially constructed as a uniquely important period in their life

This has encouraged a shift from 'quantity' to 'quality' - parents now have less children & lavish more attention and resources on them

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Future trends in birth rates

Although birth rates, fertility rates, and family sizes have fallen over last century, there has been a slight increase in births since 2001

1 reason for this = increase of immigration - mothers from outside UK tend to have higher fertility rate. Their babies accounted for 25% of all births in 2011

Up to 2041, its expected that the annual number of births will be fairly constant at around 800,000 per year

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Effects of changes in fertility on the family

Smaller families = women more likely to go to work so creates a dual earner couple

However.. some better off couples may be able to have larger families and still afford childcare that lets them both work full-time

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Effects of changes in fertility on the dependency

Dependency ratio = relationship between size of working population and non working population

Earnings, savings and taxes of working population must support dependent population (i.e. children) - fall in number of children reduces 'burden of dependency' on working population

In long term, less babies being born will mean less young adults and a smaller working popuation = burden of dependency may begin to increase again

Vanishing children = childhood may become lonelier

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Effects of changes in fertility on public services

Less schools, maternity and child health services needed

Ageing population = more old people relative to young people

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