Story: Families: a history

Fertility rates, Māori and non-Māori, 1844–2015 (1st of 2)

The fertility rate is the average number of births per adult woman. This graph records changes in the average number of births for Māori and non-Māori women over a period of 171 years. 

Information about Māori fertility is sketchy until 1960, but the data available indicates rising levels of fertility after 1840, with women having on average six to seven children between 1920 and 1965. There was a steep drop in fertility in the 1960s, with fertility reaching 2.19 births per Māori woman in 1990.

While fertility rates for non-Māori were higher than Māori rates in 1840, they dropped steeply after 1880 and were barely at replacement level in the 1930s. They rose in the 1940s and peaked at just over four births per woman between 1958 and 1961, before dropping steadily in the 1970s and 1980s to 2.17 births per non-Māori woman in 1990.

Māori and non-Māori fertility rates were almost identical in the early 1990s, but since then Māori rates increased, before dropping a little in the 2010s, while non-Māori rates have tended downwards. The Māori rate has remained above population replacement level (2.01).

Using this item

Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Source: Statistics New Zealand; Ian Pool, Arunachalam Dharmalingam, and Janet Sceats, The New Zealand family from 1840: a demographic history. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2007

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How to cite this page:

Ian Pool and Rosemary Du Plessis, 'Families: a history - Colonial families: 1840–1879', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/graph/30192/fertility-rates-maori-and-non-maori-1844-2015 (accessed 16 November 2019)

Story by Ian Pool and Rosemary Du Plessis, published 5 May 2011, updated 1 Jul 2017