UK: for the first time ever, more children are now born out of wedlock than in it as marriage rates continue to decline

UK: for the first time ever, more children are now born out of wedlock than in it as marriage rates continue to decline


According to official statistics from Britain’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), in 2021, more babies were born to unmarried couples than married couples for the first time in recorded history.

Out of a total of 624,828 live births in England and Wales, over 320,000 were born outside of marriage or civil partnerships, compared to around 304,000 born into marriages.

This means that 51.3% of all live births were to unmarried couples, a significant shift from the past, where less than one in 10 births were out of wedlock until 1978. This is the first time that the percentage of live births to unmarried couples has been a majority since 1845 when the records first began. In 1988 a quarter of live births were to unmarried couples and from the millennium onwards, this figure rose by 40% before reaching the 51.3% record of 2021.

This trend, and the decline in marriage rates, reflects changes in society such as people marrying later, having fewer children, and having children at an older age rather than the traditional approach where people tended to marry younger and have children earlier on in their lives. As well as this, as the cost of living crisis continues and interest and inflation rates continue to rise, people simply cannot afford the costs involved with getting married.

For many less affluent families, marriage is considered an expense they cannot afford, and in some circumstances, it works out cheaper and more affordable to live apart. For instance, for those claiming benefits such as universal credit, living together and having a joint claim can mean less money in comparison to those claiming the benefit who do not live with a partner.

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IMAGE: By Tom Adriaenssen – https://www.flickr.com/photos/inferis/110652572/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=639667

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