The phrase ‘2.4 children’ refers to the stereotypical family size in this country. But does it still hold true? As the ONS publishes its first analysis of births that took place in England and Wales in 2018, Nick Stripe takes a look at whether it’s time to change that number.
Cast your mind back to the nineties. The era of Britpop and football coming home, where things could only get better. The sitcom 2Point4 Children, starring Belinda Lang and Gary Olsen, introduced Bill and Ben Porter to BBC viewers on the 3rdSeptember 1991. It ran until the 30th December 1999, just as the new millennium party was getting into full swing.
Strictly speaking, Bill and Ben only had two children, David and Jenny. But dad, Ben, had juvenile tendencies which, helpfully, meant that there were 2.4 kids really. How typical were they then and now?
The broad picture painted by our analysis of births in 2018 is one of decreases and record lows. A birth rate of 11.1 births per 1,000 total population was the lowest ever recorded. And a fertility rate of 1.7 children per woman, was lower than all years except 1977 and 1999–2002.
How things have changed
At the height of the ‘baby boom’ in the late 1940s and mid 1960s, England and Wales was the scene of nearly 900,000 births per year. This represented a birth rate of around 20 births for every 1,000 people in the country. If the fertility rates of those years had persisted, women would, on average, have each given birth to around 2.8 children. This is known as the ‘total’ fertility rate. It projects forward how many children the average woman would have if she experienced that year’s ‘age-specific’ fertility rates throughout her life.