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England and Wales: Stable fertility and pronounced social status differences


  • Wendy Sigle-Rushton

    (London School of Economics and Political Science)


For nearly three decades, the total fertility rate in England and Wales has remained high relative to other European countries, and stable at about 1.7 births per woman. In this chapter, we examine trends in both period and cohort fertility throughout the twentieth century, and demonstrate some important differences across demographic and social groups in the timing and quantum of fertility. Breaking with a market-oriented and laissez-faire approach to work and family issues, the last 10 years have seen the introduction of new social and economic policies aimed at providing greater support to families with children. However, the effect of the changes is likely to be limited to families on the lower end of the income scale. Rather than facilitating work and parenthood, some policies create incentives for a traditional gendered division of labour. Fertility appears to have remained stable despite, rather than because of, government actions.

Suggested Citation

  • Wendy Sigle-Rushton, 2008. "England and Wales: Stable fertility and pronounced social status differences," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 19(15), pages 455-502, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:dem:demres:v:19:y:2008:i:15

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Smith, Ian, 1997. "Explaining the Growth of Divorce in Great Britain," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 44(5), pages 519-544, November.
    2. Robson, Karen & Berthoud, Richard, 2003. "Early motherhood and disadvantage: a comparison between ethnic groups," ISER Working Paper Series 2003-29, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    3. Alan Manning & Barbara Petrongolo, 2005. "The Part-Time Pay Penalty," CEP Discussion Papers dp0679, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    4. Paul Gregg & Maria Gutierrez-Domênech & Jane Waldfogel, 2007. "The Employment of Married Mothers in Great Britain, 1974-2000," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 74(296), pages 842-864, November.
    5. O'Donoghue, Cathal & Sutherland, Holly, 1999. "Accounting for the Family in European Income Tax Systems," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 23(5), pages 565-598, September.
    6. John Ermisch & Marco Francesconi, 2000. "Cohabitation in Great Britain: not for long, but here to stay," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 163(2), pages 153-171.
    7. Hans-Peter Kohler & Francesco C. Billari & José Antonio Ortega, 2002. "The Emergence of Lowest-Low Fertility in Europe During the 1990s," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 28(4), pages 641-680.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ann Berrington & Juliet Stone & Éva Beaujouan, 2015. "Educational differences in timing and quantum of childbearing in Britain," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 33(26), pages 733-764, October.
    2. Joshua R. Goldstein & Tomáš Sobotka & Aiva Jasilioniene, 2009. "The end of 'lowest-low' fertility? (with supplementary materials)," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2009-029, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    3. Monika Mynarska & Anna Matysiak, 2010. "Diffusion of cohabitation in Poland," Working Papers 19, Institute of Statistics and Demography, Warsaw School of Economics.
    4. Lara Tavares, 2008. "Who delays childbearing? The relationships between fertility, education and personality traits," Working Papers 009, "Carlo F. Dondena" Centre for Research on Social Dynamics (DONDENA), Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi.
    5. Brienna Perelli-Harris, 2014. "How Similar are Cohabiting and Married Parents? Second Conception Risks by Union Type in the United States and Across Europe," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 30(4), pages 437-464, November.
    6. Anna Matysiak, 2009. "Is Poland really 'immune' to the spread of cohabitation?," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 21(8), pages 215-234, August.
    7. Brienna Perelli-Harris & Michaela Kreyenfeld & Wendy Sigle-Rushton & Renske Keizer & Trude Lappegård & Aiva Jasilioniene & Caroline Berghammer & Paola Di Giulio & Katja Köppen, 2009. "The increase in fertility in cohabitation across Europe: examining the intersection between union status and childbearing," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2009-021, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    8. Ina Berninger & Bernd Weiß & Michael Wagner, 2011. "On the links between employment, partnership quality, and the desire to have a first child," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 24(24), pages 579-610, April.
    9. Schober, Pia S., 2013. "Gender Equality and Outsourcing of Domestic Work, Childbearing, and Relationship Stability Among British Couples," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, pages 25-52.
    10. repec:spr:eurpop:v:33:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10680-016-9404-2 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    England; Europe; fertility; Wales;

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • Z0 - Other Special Topics - - General


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