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The Administrative Data Research Network is an ESRC-funded project that ran from October 2013 - July 2018. It is currently at the end of its funding cycle and is no longer taking applications. Administrative data research will be taken forward in a new project, to be launched later in 2018.

Birth Registrations (England and Wales), 1963-

Title Details

Birth Registrations (England and Wales), 1963-
Principal investigator(s):
Office for National Statistics
Data collector(s):
General Register Office

Subject Categories

  • Population, vital statistics and censuses


  • Abstract copyright ADRN.

    The Birth Registration dataset for England and Wales contains administrative records about birth events occurred in England and Wales since 1837, while electronic individual records are available from 1963 onwards. In general the dataset provides a variety of information including the date and place of birth, sex, Mother and Father’s place of birth, occupation and residence (including postcode) and marital status. Information on the birth weight of the child is also supplied by the NHS but approximately 1% of all live births in any given year do not contain the birth weight. Note that over time various Acts of Parliament have added to the schedule of information required and therefore the records cannot be perfectly comparable across years.

    The information about a birth event is originally collected by the General Register Office (GRO), which is part of the Identify and Passport Service. In most cases, a birth must be registered by the parents to a local registrar within 42 days of the birth date. The residence of the baby born is allocated to the Mother’s usual area of residence and not the place where the birth occurred (although in many cases this will be the same). Once complete, the birth registration details are then passed to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) as daily extracts of data from the registration on-line system. The ONS compiles birth statistics from the information recorded at birth registration and, under the Statistics and Registration Service Act, since April 2008 ONS has also been the Data Controller responsible for the governance and disclosure of individual level data. This implies that the dissemination of birth records for research and statistical purposes is currently responsibility of ONS.

    Aggregate statistics regarding birth registrations are published to a pre-announced timetable available at Some data are available on a quarterly basis. Annual figures based on calendar year of occurrence are usually published in the July of the following year. Birth statistics data are governed by the UK Statistics Authority and so is of a high standard. Once on the ONS database, the data are passed through a series of validation processes and any inconsistencies are highlighted and dealt with appropriately. Validation checks are also made at various times by registrars, superintendent registrars, and inspectors of registration.

    The Birth Registration dataset held by the Office for National Statistics covers births in England and Wales. Information on births in Scotland is recorded by National Records of Scotland. In Northern Ireland it is recorded by the Department for Finance and Personnel.

    The Births and Deaths Registration Act 1836 required all parents to register a birth. However, it omitted to impose any penalty for failure by the parent to do this. The Births and Deaths Registration Act 1874 rectified this. Whilst the majority of births will still have been registered between 1836 and 1874, it must be regarded as incomplete for research and statistical purposes.

    As specified previously, various Acts of Parliament have added to the schedule of information required at registration. The Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1953, defined a stillbirth as ‘a child which has issued forth from its mother after the twenty- eighth week of pregnancy and which did not at any time after being completely expelled from its mother breathe or show other signs of life’. This definition was used up to the 30th of September 1992. On the 1st of October 1992 the Stillbirth (Definition) Act 1992 came into force, altering the above definition of a stillbirth to 24 or more weeks completed gestation. Figures for the stillbirths from 1993 are thus not fully comparable with those for previous years. Because this change of definition occurred three-quarters of the way into 1992, most of the tables on stillbirth data in 1992, are on the basis of the old definition.

    Research Usage and Linkage

    The Birth Registration records for England and Wales have been used for a wide range of research purposes including population estimates and analysing geographical and historical trends in birth and health patterns. The dataset has also been employed in vital events studies to help understand population demographics. For these aims the data have been linked to a number of different datasets about health and vital events. As an example, the birth records have been linked with the Hospital Episode Statistics Inpatient (including maternity dataset) to analyse patterns in health and the causes of premature birth, defects and infant mortality. The dataset has also been used as part of other studies for example the ONS Longitudinal Study and the Millennium Cohort Study. The former is a 1% sample of census records and vital events data to help examine important social health and demographic issues. The latter is a longitudinal observational study of nearly 19,000 babies born in the UK between September 2000 and January 2002 to help understand the social conditions surrounding birth and early childhood.

Coverage, universe, methodology

Time period:
England and Wales
Observation units:
Kind of data:
Individual (micro) level
All births occurred in England and Wales (and registered to a local registrar) since 1963.

Time dimensions:
Repeated cross-sectional study
Sampling procedures:
No sampling (total universe)
Number of units:
Approximately 700,000 records per year
Method of data collection:
Compilation or synthesis of existing material

A birth event is originally collected by the General Register Office (GRO), which is part of the Identify and Passport Service. Once complete, the birth registration details are then passed to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) as daily extracts of data from the registration on-line system.

Frequency of release:
Data Updated:

Administrative and access information

Crown copyright
Access conditions:
Contact the Network


Title File Name Size (KB)
Birth Statistics: Metadata (ONS, 2013) 888001_birth_statistics_metadata.pdf 321
Study Information 888001_historical_birth_registration_information.pdf 160
Vital Statistics Legislation (England and Wales) 888001_legislation.pdf 150
READ File read888001.txt 3


By principal investigator(s):

  • Abrahams, C., Davy, K. (2002) 'Linking HES maternity records with ONS birth records', Health Statistics Quarterly, 13, pp. 22-30.
  • Smallwood, S. (2004) 'Characteristics of sole registered births and the mothers who register them', Population Trends, 117, pp. 20-26.
  • Buxton, J., Clark, L., Grundy, E., Marshall, C.E. (2005) 'The long shadow of childhood: associations between parental social class and own social class, educational attainment and timing of first birth; results from the ONS Longitudinal Study', Population Trends, 121, pp. 17-26.
  • Collingwood Bakeo, A., Clark, L. (2006) 'Risk factors for low birthweight based on birth registration and census information, England and Wales,1981-2000', Health Statistics Quarterly, 30, pp. 15-21.
  • Moser, K., Macfarlane, A., Chow, Y.H., Hilder, L., Dattani, N. (2007) 'Introducing new data on gestation-specific infant mortality among babies born in 2005 in England and Wales', Health Statistics Quarterly, 35, pp. 13-27.
  • Dattani, N., Datta-Nemdharry, P., Macfarlane, A. (2012) 'Linking maternity data for England 2007: methods and data quality', Health Statistics Quarterly, 53, pp. 4-21.
  • Zumpe, J., Dormon, O., Jefferies, J. (2012) Childbearing Among UK Born and Non-UK Born Women Living in the UK, ONS.

Resulting from secondary analysis:

  • Hattersley, L., Creeser, R. (1995) Longitudinal Study 1971-1991., London: HMSO.
  • Moser, K., Li, L., Power, C. (2003) 'Social inequalities in low birth weight in England and Wales: trends and implications for future population health', J Epidemiol Community Health, 57(9), pp. 687-691. 10.1136/jech.57.9.687
  • Harding, S., Rosato, M.G., Cruickshank J.K. (2004) 'Lack of change in birthweights of infants by generational status among Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Black Caribbean, and Black African mothers in a British cohort study', International Journal of Epidemiology, 33, pp. 1-7. 10.1093/ije/dyh186
  • Dezateux, C., Hockley, C., Johnson, J., Joshi, H., Quigley, M., Rosenberg, R. (2006) Millennium Cohort Study: Birth Registration and Maternity. Hospital Episode Statistics Linkage, Centre for Longitudinal Studies.
  • Dribben, C., Sigala, M., Macfarlane, A. (2006) 'Area deprivation, individual factors and low birth weight in England: is there evidence of an "area effect"?', J Epidemiol Community Health, 60(12), pp. 1053-1059. 10.1136/jech.2005.042853
  • Graham, J., Creegan, C., Barnard, M., Mowlam, A., McKay, S. (2007) Sole and Joint Birth Registration: Exploring the Circumstances, Choices and Motivations of Unmarried Parents, Corporate Document Services. ISBN1847122809.
  • Hockley, C., Quigley, M.A., Hughes, G., Calderwood, L., Joshi, H., Davidson L.L. (2008) 'Linking Millennium Cohort data to birth registration and hospital episode records', Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 22(1), pp. 99-109. 10.1111/j.1365-3016.2007.00902.x.
  • Harper, G., Mayhew, L. (2011) 'Using Administrative Data to Count Local Populations', Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy, 5(2), pp. 97-122. 10.1007/s12061-011-9063-y

Page last updated: 20/09/2017