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Only 5.2% of babies born to single mothers in 2016

Almost a third of youngsters in England and Wales are born to couples who are not married or in a civil partnership but living together.

The number of babies born to single mothers has fallen to its lowest level since 1980, new figures show.

Meanwhile, just over half of the nation’s children are born to married parents as “cohabitation” becomes an increasingly popular way to raise children, Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show.

Almost a third of youngsters in England and Wales (32%) are born to couples who are not married or in a civil partnership but living together.

In 1986 just one in 10 births was registered to cohabiting parents, rising to 21% in 1996 and 28% in 2006.

And in 2016, just 52.4% of babies were born to parents who were married or in a civil partnership – a figure which has been in steady decline since the 1960s, the ONS said.

It said the percentage of births registered solely by the mother is at its lowest level since 1980, with just 5.2% of babies born to single mothers in 2016.

Meanwhile, the average age of first-time mothers has risen again from 28.6 years in 2015 to 28.8 years in 2016.

“The percentage of births registered solely by the mother is at its lowest level since 1980,” the ONS statistical bulletin states.

“Marriage or civil partnership remains the most common family setting for births in England and Wales as a whole, despite the steady fall in the percentage of births registered to married couples since the 1960s.”

Commenting on the figures, ONS statistician Nicola Haines said: “Our data show that the overwhelming majority of births are registered jointly by two parents.

“Over the last 30 years, the percentage of babies born to parents who are married or in a civil partnership has decreased notably from 79% in 1986 to 52% in 2016.

“Despite this, the percentage of babies born to parents who were either married, in a civil partnership or living together, has only declined slightly from 89% in 1986 to 84% in 2016; a consequence of cohabitation becoming more popular as an alternative or precursor to marriage.”

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