Forget 2.4 children ? now it's down to 1.64

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The Independent Online

The nuclear family has shrunk in size from 2.4 children to just 1.64 as women give birth to fewer babies than at any time since records began in 1924.

The nuclear family has shrunk in size from 2.4 children to just 1.64 as women give birth to fewer babies than at any time since records began in 1924.

The average number of births per woman in England and Wales reached 2.4 in 1970, when the stereotype of the typical family was established. But that figure has steadily declined because of the trend towards postponing childbirth and an increase in the number of childless women. By 2000, the fertility rate had dropped to 1.66 children per woman. But provisional figures released by the Office of National Statistics yesterday show a further 0.02 fall in 2001 to the "lowest level of fertility" since 1924, when the rate was 2.27.

Before the Second World War, the average number of children born to women fluctuated between 2.00 and 1.75. But the post-war baby boom caused a surge to 2.68 in 1947, rising to a peak of 2.93 in 1964. At that time, only 10 per cent of women remained childless but that has now doubled to nearer 20 per cent.

Other statistics showed that the number of babies born in 2001 was the lowest for 24 years at 594,634 births, 1.6 per cent less than the 604,441 births in 2000.

The number of births outside marriage continued its upward trend, with 40 per cent of children born out of wedlock compared with 30 per cent in 1990.

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