UK “fertility remains high”

Remember when the archetypal family was
Mum, Dad and 2.4 kids? Apparently in the United Kingdom, far from 2.4 children
being the norm, a fertility rate of 1.94 children per woman in 2009 is a “high”
fertility rate, at least according to the
Office for National Statistics (ONS

2009 the provisional Total Fertility Rate (TFR) for the UK was 1.94 children per
woman. This represents a small decrease in UK fertility compared with 2008,
when the TFR reached 1.96 children per woman.”

It also represents a number below the
population replacement threshold of 2.1 children per woman.  Despite this, the ONS states in the
very next sentence that:

fertility remains at a high level”

How on Earth can the authors come to this
conclusion? There are not enough babies being born to replace the population!
The answer is that this “high level” is comparative:

from 2008, the last time UK fertility was higher than in 2009 was in 1973.”

Ahhh, so in comparison to the last 35 or so
years, this fertility rate is high. Are we so used to such low fertility rates
in the West that anything approaching the nose-bleed inducing heights of two
children per woman is “high”? In a couple of generations will people who
mention that they have two siblings be instantly assumed to be Catholic?

There was also a drop in the number of live
births between 2008 and 2009. According to the ONS:

slight fall in the number of births results from two factors: the drop in the
UK TFR and the decreasing number of women in the key childbearing ages (15 to
44) living in the UK.”

All things being equal, one can only assume
that the number of women in “key childbearing ages” will continue to decline if
the birth rate stays below the replacement level. 

On the plus side, the babies that were born
in 2009 were much more likely to live to their first birthdays than those born
in 1980. In the intervening 29 years there
was a drop in infant mortality
of 60%  from 12 to 4.5 deaths per live 1,000 births. Despite these
figures, Andy Cole, the chief executive of Bliss, the special care baby
charity, said:

and Wales has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in Europe and there
is still much more to do to reduce the rate further.”

I think the UK will need to change the
expression – Mum, Dad and 1.9 kids. (Only if it’s a “highly” fertile family…)


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