Births in the capital each year have soared by 25% since 2002, as British women who delayed childbearing finally got down to it and London’s many immigrants produced in Stakhanovite quantities. London contributed fully 37% of England’s natural population increase (the surplus of births over deaths) between 2009 and 2010. Many parents are now staying put, thanks to a sticky mortgage market that makes it hard for buyers to get a loan and a sticky labour market that makes it hard for anyone to be sure of a job. Half as many London properties were sold in 2010 as in 2004. Grandparents, too, are less keen on leaving than they were. Black and Asian immigrants who settled in London in the 1960s and 1970s are disinclined to move away from their families in London for the pleasures of, say, Margate.I admit that I did a genuine double-take at this news, since this kind of phenomenon goes entirely against the grain of most demographic theory. But it seems to be true, and as with all baby booms there will have to be adjustments in London to accommodate these babies as they grow up.
Primary schools have been the first to cry havoc. Since 2008 London Councils, a lobbying group representing London’s 32 boroughs, has warned of the coming gap between the number of wriggling young bodies and the number of school places available for them. Now it is undeniable. School places are in short supply all over England, but the problem is especially acute in the capital. By 2015-16 greater London will need around 70,000 more school places, London Councils says. In November central government agreed to give the capital £250m ($390m) to increase school places—a step in the right direction, but nothing like what is needed.We would expect that the next step will be a flight of young families to the suburbs, but perhaps London is enough of a world leader to defy that expectation. The Economist is not sure what to expect:
How permanent are these new demographic trends? Will birth rates turn down again as the daughters of immigrants adopt British ways? Will foreigners find greener economic fields elsewhere? Will native Londoners? Flyers touting emigration services are beginning to appear in parts of town.What do you think?