Exclusive research by The Canary reveals that birth rates among the richest people in society are, in part, driving the UK’s population growth. This goes against the belief that’s it’s due to poor people and immigration.
On the up?
- The average age of parents has continued to rise.
- Sole birth registrations by the mother are at an all time low.
- Most births (58%) were to mothers who already had at least one child.
The Canary dug deeper into the statistics. And we found that there has been a notable increase in the number of births among the richest socioeconomic statuses (SES). But rates among the poorest in society have been falling. Our research has been confirmed by the ONS.
A baby boom among the rich?
SES is a grade of a person based on their occupation and income, and often education level and home ownership status. The ONS uses a grading of one to eight; 1.1 and 1.2 being the richest, and eight being the poorest, typically unemployed or those who have ‘never worked’. The Canary used figures from 2013, when a new measurement was introduced [xls, table 4], and then the newest figures [xls, table 14].
Our analysis showed that, since 2013, birth rates have increased by:
- 5.6% in SES grades 1.1 and 1.2, or 6,920 additional births.
- 2.9% in grade two; 5,646 more births.
- 3.8% in grade four (2,388), but there was a 4% fall in grade three (3,357).
But all the lower SES showed a decrease; although most would not be classed as significant. This is except for the fall in the lowest grade, eight. While the ONS estimates births in this grade, it showed a 33% fall in rates since 2013.
So in 2016, when the population of England and Wales grew by 495,500, the top four SES contributed 477,902 births to this; an increase of 2.5% since 2013. Meanwhile, SES grades 5-8 produced 176,561 births, a 0.9% decrease on 2013. Meanwhile, net migration to the UK fell by 25.3% between 2015 and 2016.
All the figures have margins of error [xls, Appendix Two]. But even when factoring these in, the higher SES increases and the grade eight decreases would still be classed as significant.
The ONS says…
The ONS told The Canary that it:
Can confirm your findings however we have not performed any work exploring why these changes may have taken place.
It said that one possible reason for the increases could be:
In 2016 there were 154,938 live births to women aged 35 and over, 10% higher than in 2013 (140,658 live births).
Women delaying childbearing to focus on their career could have contributed to the increased number of births in the higher SES groups in 2016 compared with 2013. Consideration however would also need to be given to the distribution of the female population of childbearing age by SES.
Punished for being poor?
But there could be other factors at play to explain the rich having more children and the poor having fewer:
- Wage increases have not kept pace with inflation since 2007/08.
- Child poverty has already increased to one in four children, possibly putting poorer parents off having any more children.
- Benefits have been frozen at 2015 rates.
- Health inequality between the richest and poorest remains “persistent“, according to the government’s own analysis. For example, NHS England found the poorest people had 71% more emergency admissions to hospital than the richest [pdf, p4].
Ultimately though, the social structures that used to support poorer families to have children no longer exist. Both parents are now encouraged to go out to work, when historically it was acceptable for one to stay at home and raise children. With the introduction of tax credits as opposed to ‘benefits’, being what the US calls a ‘homemaker’ no longer exists; except if you are well off enough to be able to afford to do that.
So the rise in rich people having children and the tandem decline among the poorest is probably due to many factors. But not least due to the poorest simply not being able to afford to have a family anymore.
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