Fri 24 Apr 2015 2:31AM

Number of children born alive

SD Sophie Davies Public Seen by 256

We are considering including number of children born alive in the census on a cyclic basis, as the data typically shows less change over time than other census data. It is normally asked every second census.

While birth registrations (administrative data) are the key source of information on fertility, census information on the number of children born alive helps us understand changes in family size and patterns and timing of childbearing. It is our only source of data on childlessness and overseas births to women now living in New Zealand. It permits detailed socio-economic and socio-cultural studies of fertility.

Census data indicates childbearing and childlessness patterns are changing, but in a relatively consistent direction since 1996. Given the constant direction of change since 1996, the need for inclusion in 2018 is questionable.

We also need to consider the sensitivity of this information. This may be contributing to the relatively high non-response rate for this question.

Our current recommendations relating to number of children born alive

  • Further evidence would need to be supplied by experts to support including ‘number of children born alive’ in the 2018 Census.

See our preliminary view of 2018 Census content (page 16) for a more detailed discussion on number of children born alive information.

See 2013 Census information by variable for information on the number of children born alive variable.


Camille (facilitator) Wed 29 Apr 2015 8:08PM

Kia ora, hello, and welcome to the 2018 Census discussion on number of children born alive. I am Camille- I work for Statistics New Zealand and I'm here to facilitate open, respectful and inclusive discussion. Click here to introduce yourself on the welcome and introductions page.

We look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions.


lois matheson Mon 1 Jun 2015 4:03AM

Hi - I wonder why no-one is commenting here - as this seems to be a topic of real interest to women (and to men - I don't mean to be exclusive here). Is it really true that fertility is changing as constantly as indicated? Will it not matter if this does not get collected in the census in 2018?

I would have thought that with the average age of mother's climbing and with sperm counts dropping - fertility might be changing faster than expected.

It is a sensitive topic and I am sure many would find it hard to talk about - but counting births whatever the outcome also seems important.


Robert Didham (topic expert) Tue 2 Jun 2015 12:09AM

Thank you Lois for your comment. You raise three extremely interesting question which each deserve wider discussion. The first by implication: should we also be asking this question of men? In many countries overseas there is a growing interest in paternity rates. The second question: how is fertility changing? You question indicates a good knowledge of the underlying rapid compositional changes, both due to migration and due to changing patterns of childbearing, taking place in the population which information from this question can show. Your third question is the key one: will it not matter if it is not in 2018? It would be good to hear from other people working in the areas of fertility, education, aged care etc on what they think.


Bobbi Taylor Wed 3 Jun 2015 10:18PM

I don't think the question asked on the form really has captured the full picture of modern fertility issues. The UK is seeing that women are leaving having children later and later and that IVF and surrogacy which have huge costs (medical and legal) associated increase with delayed onset of motherhood. Surrogacy is not reflected in the question at all. For example my friend used a surrogate ( member of her extended family) to give birth to a baby that is 100% biologically her and her husband's. This doesn't reflect in the picture of fertility. Surrogacy laws are still in their infancy in New Zealand and will require further policy and legislative development. Paternity and the number of different mothers to which children are born is also a social issue.


Robert Didham (topic expert) Wed 3 Jun 2015 10:31PM

Thank you Bobbi for your comment. These are very good points and I agree that the question does not capture a full picture of fertility interests - but no single question would be likely to do so. There are other information sources about surrogacy in NZ for those surrogates births that occur in NZ (not, of course, for those that occurred overseas) but the numbers are small. You are right though that the example you cite would not be reflected in the fertility data unless either the biological parent or the surrogate recorded this on their census as a birth. It is unlikely that a census would be seen as appropriate to extend the question to ask how many different fathers or, in the case of paternity, different mothers were involved - this would be seen as far too intrusive to be acceptable to many people. Similar sensitivity relates to still births. However, this does point to a third major value in the question (along with a count of all live births and being able to measure childlessness) and that is that is a source of true parity data which is not available from birth registrations (which ask the number of previous issue to the same partnership). This is not to say that in the future, after surrogacy laws are resolved and if surrogacy becomes a major component of the fertility picture that a question might not become viable.