A team of researchers at the University of St Andrews has been awarded a grant of £708,000 to investigate the causes of recent fertility fluctuations in the UK and forecast future trends.

The team, led by Professor Hill Kulu, has been given the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) grant to examine the fluctuations in fertility levels in the UK and their causes, and to develop improved methodologies for fertility forecasting.

The injection was made as the last two decades have witnessed dramatic changes in fertility levels, which were not predicted by demographers or government statisticians - fertility ‘significantly’ increased in the first decade of the 21st century, whereas it has declined thereafter.

The University says that these changes when translated into numbers of births have had important implications, in the provision of health services, childcare, and school places.

Professor Kulu announced that they are “delighted” to receive the award, and to “collaborate with colleagues at the University of Southampton”, who will also join the project.

He continued, “The support by ESRC provides the opportunity to significantly improve our understanding of the drivers of fertility change.

“Fluctuations in fertility levels have a significant effect on the population age composition; the post-war baby boom and the subsequent fertility decline are the main causes of population ageing we observed in the UK and elsewhere in industrialised countries. Similarly, recent fertility fluctuations have significant short- and long-term implications for planning and policy making, at both national and local levels.

“A decline in fertility levels by 10% will lead to about 40 thousand fewer new-born babies in the UK annually, and the effects may be even more pronounced locally. In the context of rapid population ageing and fluctuating migration numbers, there is an urgent need to measure the contribution of births to the growth and, even more importantly, age composition of the British population.”