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Currently there are a number of important questions about fertility patterns in England and Wales (and the UK as a whole). These include, for example, how far the recent upturn in fertility rates since 2001 reflects the higher fertility of immigrant groups; how the experiences of different birth cohorts vary and what kind of changes there have been in the timing of childbearing (tempo) and in the number of children women have (quantum).

The Office for National Statistics Longitudinal Study (LS) contains data which allow us to study fertility in England and Wales. Live births and stillbirths to sample mothers are linked to other information collected about these women. This allows us to calculate fertility rates for specific periods from 1971 when the LS was created. We can look at fertility rates by age, and also by sub-populations, for example ethnic group and country of birth. As the births are linked to the mother, we can analyse other measures such as parity and birth intervals.

This training module looks at what fertility data are available in the LS and explains how to calculate commonly used fertility measures. We then show some examples of rates calculated using the LS and compare them with national estimates from other sources. We also describe some of the issues affecting the calculation of the rates and discuss the quality of the data.

The module shows:

  • How fertility is measured.
  • What fertility data are available in the LS.
  • How we create fertility rates using the LS.
  • Some estimates of fertility rates using the LS and how they compare with national estimates for England and Wales.
  • What has been done before using the LS.

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