"Birth rate increase may reflect Blair policies, says expert"
Thus the Guardian.
The birth rate has climbed to its highest point in 13 years to an average of 1.8 children for every woman in England and Wales, the Office for National Statistics said yesterday.
The climb from an all-time low of 1.63 children per woman in 2001 is still significantly below the level needed for replacement - which is more than two. But there was speculation yesterday that the childcare reforms of the Blair government might be having an impact.
Huzzah for Sure Start !
"We looked at the reasons for this slight, hopeful rise," said Julia Margo, author of a report called Population Politics published in February by the Institute for Public Policy Research. "It seems to map on to 2001 when Labour started pushing on family friendly policies and childcare. There is a better deal now from government than ever before."
Hooray ! We won't all have to work till we're 156 ! The family lives !
Yes, but whose family ?
But, she added, there were other possible reasons that do not hold out promise for the rise across all groups which is needed for a sustained increase in births. "We don't have access to the background data, which would tell us whether there are socio-economic differences, whether professional women will still be having less children." It could be that the rise is restricted to poorer women and those from migrant groups, who traditionally have had larger families.
The figures are here.
The figures by health authority (.xls) and local authority are interesting. The lowest birth-rate ? The hideously white north-east (which you may recall has the highest bastardy rate in England). The highest ? West Midlands and North London.
A quick Excel sort gives us the following top ten local authorities, ignoring Rutland, where a woman having quads seems to have distorted the figures.
Blackburn with Darwen
Barking and Dagenham
Yes, that last one's right - Boston, Lincs.
The bottom 20 or so are interesting, too. Three categories.
a) wealthy white urban areas - there aren't enough yuppies moving back into town. Chester, Cheltenham, Warwick, Oxford, Cambridge, Durham.
b) poor white city centres - Sunderland, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle under Lyme. Same phenomenon ? Natives avoiding the cities ?
c) certain London boroughs - Islington, Camden, Ken & Chelsea, Westminster. By the time you can afford to live there your breeding days are over.
5 hours ago