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Thursday, 16 May, 2002, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
2.4 children 'no longer the average'
On average, women are having fewer children
On average, women are having fewer children
Mr and Mrs Average no longer have 2.4 children - latest statistics show the figure is now 1.64.

That is the lowest average level of births per woman since records began in 1924.

The data from the Office for National Statistics also showed there was the lowest number of live births in 2001 since 1977.

Last year there were 594,634 live births. In 1977, there were 569,259.


Women now have higher expectations and different aspirations from previous generations

Gill Keep, National Family and Parenting Institute
Gill Keep, head of policy for the National Family and Parenting Institute told BBC News Online: "There are a number of factors that have contributed to the declining birth rate in recent decades.

"There are been a rapid increase in the number of women choosing not to have children, as the choices they have open to them have changed and increased.

Career women

"Women are now having their first child at a later age - recent similar statistics have shown that most women do not become mothers until their late 20s - which makes it less likely that they will have a large family."

She added: "Financial issues as always play a part: the high cost of bringing up children and buying property does deter people from increasing the size of their family.

"Arguably, the major issue has been the increase in the number of working women.

"Women now have higher expectations and different aspirations from previous generations."

The ONS data also showed the proportion of births outside marriage continues to rise.

Forty per cent of live births occurred outside marriage compared to 30% a decade ago.

The number of infant deaths is at its lowest ever, with just 5.5 deaths per 1,000 live births in England and Wales.

Death rates in the general population also fell slightly, with 532,498 deaths in 2001, compared to 537,877 the previous year.

See also:

01 May 02 | Health
Minority have natural births
01 Mar 02 | Health
Late birth more common
28 Feb 02 | Health
Teenage pregnancies fall again
31 Jan 02 | Health
More babies born outside marriage
16 Jan 02 | Health
IVF 'fastest way to get pregnant'
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