TCS Daily


The Parent Trap

By Glenn Harlan Reynolds - May 17, 2006 12:00 AM

Not long ago we worried about baby booms and overpopulation. Now some people are worrying about a "Global Baby Bust." Writing in Foreign Affairs, Phillip Longman says it's mostly because of economics:

"In nations rich and poor, under all forms of government, as more and more of the world's population moves to urban areas in which children offer little or no economic reward to their parents, and as women acquire economic opportunities and reproductive control, the social and financial costs of childbearing continue to rise.

"In the United States, the direct cost of raising a middle-class child born this year through age 18, according to the Department of Agriculture, exceeds $200,000 -- not including college. And the cost in forgone wages can easily exceed $1 million, even for families with modest earning power. Meanwhile, although Social Security and private pension plans depend critically on the human capital created by parents, they offer the same benefits, and often more, to those who avoid the burdens of raising a family."

He's clearly right about the economics. Children used to provide cheap labor, and retirement security, all in one. Now they're pretty much all cost and no return, from a financial perspective. That suggests that subsidies might solve the problem. Vladimir Putin thinks so, as he plans to offer generous parental benefits to encourage citizens to have more children, something that's necessary as Russia's population is in absolute decline. (Italy, which is also in demographic free-fall, is doing something similar).

Meanwhile, in the United States, commentator John Gibson is calling for "procreation, not recreation." But I think that attitude is part of the problem. (Procreation not recreation? As an old-timer once reportedly said in response to the Make Love, Not War, slogan: "Hell, in my time we did both.")

But Gibson's slogan unwittingly captures an important aspect of the problem, in the United States and other industrial societies, at least: We've taken a lot of the fun out of parenting. Or to echo Longman, the "social costs" of parenting continue to rise, and, more significantly, perhaps, the "social returns" continue to decline.

Parenting was always hard work, of course. But aside from the economic payoffs, parents used to get a lot of social benefits, too. But in recent decades, a collection of parenting "experts" and safety-fascist types have extinguished some of the benefits while raising the costs, to the point where what's amazing isn't that people are having fewer kids, but that people are having kids at all.

This occurred to me recently while reading Caitlin Flanagan's new book, To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife. Flanagan's book is mostly a comparison of her own housewifely and maternal life with that of her mother, and one thing that struck me is how much of what counted as acceptable -- or even exemplary -- parenting a generation ago would now be considered abuse and neglect. Here's an example:

"My mother was by no means indifferent about me: I was her pet, the baby of the family. But back then children were not under constant adult supervision, even if their mothers were housewives. By the time I was five, I was allowed to wander away from the house as long as I didn't cross any big streets. I had the run of the neighborhood at six. . . . A nine-year-old could be trusted with a key; a nine-year-old knew how to work a telephone if anything went wrong. Moreover, anxiety as a precondition of the maternal experience had not yet been invented."

Nowadays, of course, children don't get the same treatment. (I have heard repeatedly that my state's Department of Children's Services considers it neglect to leave a nine-year-old alone in the house for any time at all). Today's middle-class kids are always under the adult eye. It's not clear that the kids are better off for all this supervision -- and they're certainly fatter, perhaps because they get around less outside -- but the burden on parents is much, much higher. And it's exacted in a million tiny yet irritating other ways. Some are worthwhile -- car seats, for example, are probably a net gain in safety -- but even there the cost is high: I heard a radio host in Knoxville making fun of SUVs and minivans: When he was a kid, he boasted, his parents took their five children cross-country in an Impala sedan. Nowadays, you'd never make it without being cited for neglect. And you can't get five kids in a sedan if they all have to have car seats, which these days they seem to require until they're 18.

Likewise, Flanagan notes the pressure to take children for a seemingly endless array of after-school activities, most of which require parental chauffering. Add to this the increasing amount of parental responsibility for things their children do wrong, coupled with steady legal diminution of parental authority (Flanagan mentions an incident in which Caroline Kennedy was spanked for running off and notes that today it might result in jail time -- an exaggeration, perhaps, but not by much.) You're responsible for your kids in ways previous generations weren't, but your ability to discipline them is much reduced, and as my wife (a forensic psychologist) notes, the bad kids know that they can cow most adults by threatening to call 911 and make a bogus abuse charge. And forget disciplining your child, even with a harsh word, in a public place: At the very least, if you do you'll be looked on not as a virtuous parent helping to preserve the social fabric, but as that worst of all sinners in contemporary American culture: a meanie. And schools, anxious for parental "involvement," place far more demands on parents than they did when I was a kid.

There's also the decline in parental prestige over generations. My mother reports that when she was a newlywed (she was married in 1959) you weren't seen as fully a member of the adult world until you had kids. Nowadays to have kids means something closer to an expulsion from the adult world. People in the suburbs buy SUVs instead of minivans not because they need the four-wheel-drive capabilities, but because the SUVs lack the minivan's close association with low-prestige activities like parenting, and instead provide the aura of high-prestige activities like whitewater kayaking. Why should kayaking be more prestigious than parenting? Because parenting isn't prestigious in our society. If it were, childless people would drive minivans just to partake of the aura.

In these sorts of ways, parenting has become more expensive in non-financial as well as financial terms. It takes up more time and emotional energy than it used to, and there's less reward in terms of social approbation. This is like a big social tax on parenting and, as we all know, when things are taxed we get less of them. Yes, people still have children, and some people even have big families. But at the margin, which is where change occurs, people are less likely to do things as they grow more expensive and less rewarded.

So as we head into what looks like a major demographic debate, I think we need to look beyond subsidies and finances to culture. If people want to see Americans have more children, they should probably ignore Putin's advice, and they should definitely ignore Gibson's advice. They should look at ways of making parenting more rewarding, and less burdensome, in social as well as economic terms.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a TCS contributing editor.

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55 Comments

Cost of raising children
The Department of Agriculture is nuts if it thinks it costs $200,000 to raise a middle-class child. We have seven children, which on an annualized basis would mean we'd have to spend $77,777.78 raising them. Assuming we spent the same amount per year ($11,111.11) on ourselves as the parents, it would all add up to $99,999.99 per year. My income has never come remotely near that, but even with the added expenses of home schooling all these kids, we've always had all we need--and plenty more. (In this crazy family we now have eight fully-equipped computers!) Frugality counts. It might take $200,000 to raise a middle-class spoiled brat to age eighteen, but not to raise a well-adjusted, contented middle-class child.

the good side is
Reynolds gives no actual evidence, only his personal feelings to blame over regulation and liberal values for falling birth rates. Demographers around the world know that people have fewer children when they have access to birth control and economic security. Even China is learning that its radical one child policy is unnecessary in urban areas.

I say let the population fall 10% per generation. We don't have to be big to be great. When Chopin wrote his B minor piano sonata the population was ten times smaller than it is now. The US has grown bigger, but not wiser, since the passing of the founding fathers.

The Parent Trap
What if the global decline in birthrates is due to environmental factors?

Evolution?
The people who have children determine the future.

People having children today are not the liberal, economically-successful, cosmopolitan types. Instead, its misogynist Muslims, polygamous Mormons, and clannish Mennonites who are having the babies. Those are the folks who represent the human future.

Darwinian selection happening before your very eyes.

Underdeveloped societies don't have large families because of economic benefits
Excellent column - but I'd like to correct an oft-repeated error. Traditional societies do not have large families because of the economic benefits of having many children - in fact the evidence points to economic disadvantage from large families. On average, resources flow down the generations and children consume more than they contribute - the more children the greater the consumption.

In a nutshell, Traditional agricultural societies (especially in early modernizing stages) have large numbers of children compared with hunter gatherers and modern societies mainly because they lack contraception. On a hunter gatherer diet, women cannot conceive when breastfeeding, and HGs also space out children using infanticide - these factors plus high infant mortality keep families relatively small.

As soon as women are free and technologically-able to regulate their own fertility, families tend to drop below replacement level - leading to a new set of problems.

This is well covered in Mother Nature by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, and the following paper by Malcolm Potts of UC Berkeley:

Polulation and Development Review: March 1997, Vol. 23, No. 1

Abstract

Sex and the Birth Rate: Human Biology, Demographic Change, and Access to Fertility-Regulation Methods
Malcolm Potts, Bixby Professor, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, and President, International Family Health, London

Success, in evolutionary terms, means contributing more surviving offspring to the next generation than competing individuals of the same species in the same population. Human conception is a probabilistic event occurring against a background of frequent, usually infertile sex, which helps bond parents together. Humans have an innate drive for sex and for nurturing their children as they arrive, but they have no biological predisposition for a specific number of children. In preliterate societies, in the absence of artificial means of fertility regulation, pregnancies are spaced several years apart by unconscious physiological mechanisms based on breastfeeding. In preliterate and in preindustrial urban societies, socially successful individuals commonly had larger than average families. Once people have unconstrained access to a range of fertility-regulation options (including safe abortion), family size falls in all groups and in all societies. In such a context, social success tends to be associated with the accumulation of material wealth, rather than with having more children. The argument that development causes fertility decline is flawed because people cannot make choices about family size without realistic access to fertility-regulation technologies, and such access is historically recent and remains geographically limited. Where access to fertility regulation is constrained, the richer and more educated are usually better able than the less privileged to surmount the barriers between them and the needed technologies, hence the common inverse relationship between income and family size. Policies derived from this perspective are discussed. [23, no. 1 (Mar 97) 1-39]

LiberalGoodman...
The problem with just letting populations fall is the Pyramid Social Securities schemes. I say Schemes because Europe is really going to be suffering in a Generation.

When the first recipients in America were on Social Security it was like 20 workers per retiree. Now it is like 5 to 1. If the population fell ten percent as you talk, and with people living longer lives, it could be 3-1 or worse. There comes a point when raising taxes that instead of growth you get decay. Reach that point with a 3-1 worker-retiree rate and boom you got economic meltdown. At least in America right now we have replacement levels which will make it easier to stay at 5-1.

In Europe though, you are looking at halving the population in about 50-60 years. Their tax and social security will be impossible to maintain. It would be a boon for America, after all are people going to work for 20% of their money. When they can move to America and keep 65-80% of their money.

I remember when I was 9...
I was babysitting my Younger brothers, 6 and 7. Today, man there would be hell to pay.

More of the Same
Mr. Reynolds,
I realize your article was limited in topic and size, but I want to suggest that the same restrictions that parents have are imposed on employers (including anxiety and round-the-clock responsibility).
And, in the same way that it's amazing that any kids are born, it's amazing that any businesses are born.

I agree
I agree with the overall tone of the article. We have 9 and it's not economically easy, particularly since we send them to Catholic Schools (Neither my wife nor my children have temperaments conducive to home schooling). Overall it's been a worthwhile experience so far-the kids are all right. We've had to make a conscious decision not to try to keep up with the Jones-the kids are on their own for college if they decide to go. The first three decided to go to college, despite my advice to enlist in the military first. I feel proud of the fact that my family is contributing to society. If there were more large families, we'd need less immigration and would not worry so much about Social Security, although I'm sure there'd be other problems.
I also agree strongly about the safety issue. We're not even supposed to have our under age 12 kids in the front seat due to danger from the airbag. Some of the best conversations I ever had were sitting next to my Dad in the car while he ran the family errands. My kids sit up front with me. I'll take the ticket.There has to be some balance somewhere.

Choice
As a childfree man, and a spokesperson for No Kidding!, I can tell you that a lot of people forgo parenthood because it just doesn't appeal to them. The fact that a person can choose not to have children is a function of improved birth control, and the advancing opportunities for women.

The current stats suggest that despite the availability of birth control, a large percentage of pregnancies are still unintended. Once men have more options than condoms or vasectomy, you will likely see birth rates drop even more.

The simple fact is, not everyone is cut out to be a parent. And some that have the potential to be good parents choose other goals for their lives. The childfree self-select themselves out of the equation. Considering the disturbingly rapid increase of our global population over the past couple of hundred years, we're in need of a correction. It's far better for this correction to happen as a result of lower birth rates than disease, war, or famine. It may get a bit rocky getting there, but a stable population of 1-2 billion people worldwide should be sustainable.

A bit off-topic, but...
Am I the only one who finds the phrase "safe abortion" a bit oxymoronic? I thought the point of abortion was to murder the child. In what way is that "safe"?

I guess it's kind of like calling the guillotine a form of "safe beheading" in that there's little chance that the guy pulling the lever will cut himself on the blade. Just don't ask the person looking down at the basket if he feels "safe".

heh, me too!
but my brothers were a bit younger--5 and 4. We lived on a farm at the time and the 5 year old wandered off. I spent 1 1/2 hours looking for him--scared to death the whole time. Turns out he was napping under a tree. I found him 1/2 hour before my folks returned.

I grew up a lot that day.

The Cost of Kids
dad had 6; I have 2. Here are some reasons for the difference, even for parents that might have wanted more kids: (1) families work harder in the child bearing years(often 2 jobs, longer hours) to maintain the same living standard and stay ahead of inflation and taxes that erode actual income. Many moms defer kids in their 20's, start work again and are in their late 40's before they know what hit them. An off the books cost of the "Great Society's" inflation and taxation. What? No one thought people needed time to have and raise families? That they could work all those extra hours, skip all those vacations, pay all those taxes and still punch out kids? (2) A desire to have more for their kids: yes you can "make do" but many parents want more: private schools versus LA Unified School District's "cattle chute" idea of education in the high schools. Enrichment courses that give their kids, hardly spoiled brats although that can happen anywhere, more experience earler. (3) The escalating cost of college--escalating higher than gas and without any genuine reason (Ward churchill and his pension!) finally (4), the divorce rate --now about 50%--leaves disintegrating families to make do on half their former resources (wife feels entitled not to work or legetimately bears the burden of raising the kids while Dad works full time) isn't about to have the 2d, or 3rd kid much less a 4th.

The Plus side of Having Children
I think the author has not thought out the issue of having children. Consider the following:

a. Among the three major Jewish denominations, the Conservative and Reform movements are the wealthiest ... perhaps by far. The Orthodox (including the Hasidem) are clearly poorer.
Yet, by far, the average number of children in an Orthodox family is sharply greater (about 4) than among the non-Orthodox (about 1.7). If economics was the driving force, the birthrates would be reversed.

b. Perhaps it's the educational level of the non-Orthodox. It's really a woman's issue where women are marrying late ... if at all.

c. Perhaps it's accomplishment. I am now emeritus having been retired for a number of years. Despite a high number journal articles and paper presentations, I am sure I have become Dr. ... who? in my field.
Among my three children and eight grandchildren I am sure I have a firmly emplanted memory engram among them. Hopefully, I will be known among a long line of descendents.

d. Perhaps it is held that there is no hereafter and when they die they become just a pile of dust.
Wrong, wrong, wrong!

The more children you have,the greater is the amount of one's DNA which is passed. If the children have children,the DNA is passed on to them.
And remember,the DNA holds your physical entity. In a manner of speaking, you would live on,perhaps unto eternity.

This transmission is not only biological, it is also psychological. Much of one's persona is passed on and continues to be passed on to following generations.

For me, at least, this outlook has made me very happy. And, incidentally, I am one of six children raised in a poor family during the Depression.

Opportunity costs
I also think the DoA estimate is high, but do keep in mind that they have probably folded opportunity costs in. A parent raising children may have to forgo important career opportunities. In other words, the cost of raising kids isn't just the money you fork out, but also the money you never take in because you're busy raising kids.

Free Market Choices
I agree. And don't forget that high mortality rates in infants and children also drives reproduction in under-developed regions.

But there's another side that doesn't get mentioned -- choice.

As societies advance, the individual can afford to CHOOSE a many more ways in which to enrich themselves; world travel, thrill-seeking sports, demanding crafts & hobbies, and of course, excess & leisure. These choices are VERY ATTRACTIVE to many individuals and result in "delayed" marriages and children. Furthermore, these same individuals will often CHOOSE to fewer children so as not to completely sacrifice their own lifestyle.

In the end, a free market in which individuals are to make decisions for their own benefit is not necessarily condusive to creating families of three or more children.

good point but...
I agree that the Department of Agriculture's estimate is high, but there was another thing about the artical that I found interesting.
The point was made that in the 1950's a small child had the run of the neighborhood and if what my mother tells me is true that is correct. I was raised in the 1980's and I had the run of the neighborhood as well. I think the reason that children can not do that anymore is because of parents fear that their child would be kidnaped if they are not supervised. I live in the country at the end of a dead end road. I let my children out in the back yard unsupervised only because I really don't have to worry about that. Parents have good reason to be uneasy about leaving their children unsupervised. The news is full of stories of children kidnapped or raped or worse.
The point of pressure that parents have to take their children to all kinds of after school activities is very true as well. My children are not school aged yet, but I know that once they are they'll want to do what their friends are doing and that means that I'll be spending lots of time and money taking them places. It is a good thing in a way, because otherwise I'd be almost impossible to get the children excersised.
Anyway, those are my thoughts on the matter.
-Lea

Your Numbers Are Way Off!
1. Right now, today, the number of workers supporting Social Security recipients is down to a little more than 2 per retiree, not 5. The SS pyramid scheme is far closer to meltdown than most people realize.

(Why do you think Karl Rove and Chappaquiddick Ted are so anxious to import 100 million more Mexicans?)

2. The total of all taxation in America is close to 75%. People forget that in addition to direct taxation, you have indirect taxation and double taxing of interest and dividend income and capital gains, that makes our total taxation rate close to, and in some cases exceeding, the rates i=of soicalist European governments. Note I did not say "countries", because European "countries" as a practical matter don't exist any more. Call it "greater eurabia".

So much crap posted here
the article was a good one, but it seems everyone out there is too self absorbed to consider any positives but the financial or social/economic. I could care less about any of that. Raising my four girls (and I would have more if I wasn't such a bonehead) to become loved and loving, productive adults is my only real goal in life.

To do this requires having a work ethic and passing it on while, at the same time, always putting family first, even ahead of work and other commitments. Does it cost money and force you to forgo a trip to the Bahamas? YES!. But you don't miss what you don't have. I've managed to purchase my own home, but none of my vehicles is less than 10-years old. I've managed to stay working at the same place for many years, in spite of taking off on a moments notice to run a kid to the doctor or deal with a family problem. My kids come to work with me at times, I work at home at times, and have done so from the time they are a few months old. I take off early when my wife has to work or has other commitments where she can't take the kids.

I go to games, practices, and sit on the porch with my 4-month old, or my 11 year old, or whichever kids just needs time with dad. I can discuss rap music with my 17-year old and be amazed at the phases of the moon with my 9-year old. I play video games, go on bike rides and found that the word NO isn't as bad as I thought it was when I was a kid.

Yes, my work is important to me; but I realize that it is important only to me, while I'm important to my kids. If I'm forced to choose between the two, guess who wins?

This wasn't always the case. Before my oldest was born I was a self absorbed bum who vowed I would never settle down. Then my girlfriend got pregnant and I was peeved!! I almost left, but something told me I was needed to take responsiblity for this, so I stayed. I was in the delivery room when she came into this world and something inside me changed instantly. At that moment I knew I would live the next 18 years, and possibly the rest of my life, with the primary focus of taking care of this precious child.

But none of that is what really matters; or all of it is just a small part.
If you have children and didn't understand the evil that abortion, especially late-term abortion, is the minute they first snuggled down into your arms, then you are a blight on the human race.
If the innocent smile of a youg child doesn't cause a stir in your chest, you are a waste of air.
If the pure joy of a happy child doesn't make you want to share in that obvious bliss, you have no soul.
If the pure beauty of any infant child doesn't make you want to cry, you have no heart.

Some say that there are people not cut out to b parents; I say there are simply some people too self-absorbed, selfish, wrapped up and rattled to enjoy life and it's most basic joys.

BTW, my kids are far from perfect angels. Each has a unique personality and creates their own set of challenges. Yes, they do things and I have to disclipline them. Yes, they sometimes upset me, get defiant, or get into real trouble (especially the teenager). No, I'm not the "perfect" parent, don't have the "perfect" house or "perfect" kids. I will probably work 'til I die, like my father before me. Retirement is probably a pipedream. Vacations aren't something we do every year (I've had three over the past 18 years), and camping trips and weekend getaways are something we catch when we can.

So why have kids? If you have ever seen my kids, through my eyes, you wouldn't have to ask. Since you can't do that, I can't explain it to you.

No Kidding
Nobody knows if they will be a good parent beforehand. If you decide to abstain from having a family because you feel you will be a bad parent then you are lying to yourself. The real truth is you enjoy your freedom and do not want to share yourelf totally with another person.

Personally, I call that being selfish. As the saying goes where would you be today if your parents had your attitutde.

Reared in the 1950s
When I was reared in the 1950s, we were allowed to play in the alleyway of our small mining community, and in the fields back of the house. However, we go not go to the nearby creek (directly behind our house) without at least one other child in the family--a "buddy system"--someone who could go for help,if necessary. We climbed trees, played in the creek, and enjoyed life. We were not constantly under adult supervision, but a watchful eye was cast in our direction regularly.

We were spanked for lying, stealing, cheating, or slipping off to the creek or the state highway one house in front of ours, alone. The spanking quickly cured us of those infractions against our neighbors and our own lives.

I had great respect for my mother, who reared me and did the spanking. (My father was an absentee father much of the time, as he was out chasing women most of the time.) I never loved her any less for the discipline, and I really appreciated it later in life, when I looked back at my childhood.

Great post - and it contained the most clear answer to the issue
You wrote "This wasn't always the case. Before my oldest was born I was a self absorbed bum who vowed I would never settle down. Then my girlfriend got pregnant and I was peeved!! I almost left, but something told me I was needed to take responsiblity for this, so I stayed."

It's interesting that none of the previous posters mentioned the fact that evolution (nature, our genes, God, Gaia, The Goddess, Thor, Huichilopochtli?) created us too stupid to avoid remote control by our hormones during our teens and twenties. In a state of nature we mate for fun, have children, and only then learn that the days of freedom are over. In a state of old time religion we rebel, or sin, or even marry in order to mate for fun and have children.

In a state of affluence we scare the heck out of our children and provide them with contraception so they can mate for fun without having children. Only later do they think about children when their head is able to rule their hormones, and few rational people tie more than one or two anchors around their necks while at sea in a small boat.

Much later, of course, we regret that we didn't have more kids, hence the enormous infertility treatment industry and the thriving import business in babies from the third world.

Foolow-up
I was from a family of eight children. Children helped produce food for the family by working in the garden, helping out at harvest time with canning and drying fruits and vegetables, feeding chickens, picking berries, and gathering fruit and nuts in the fall.

We were all expected to do our part to help the family. We griped, because we would rather be off playing, but we did what we had to do.

Because my father eventually abandoned us, each child went to work to help support younger siblings, once high school was finished, giving older siblings a chance to marry and start their own families.

The young adults took care of sick, elderly adults. There was a lot of love and respect.

There is still pockets of old fashioned child rearing
Coming up the trail from Canyon de Chelly (sic?) my brother and I came across an Indian family going down into the canyon late in the day, probably going home or going to visit grandpa for a few days.

Big momma, very big poppa and about six barefoot kids from about 2 years old to about 10 years old running, tripping, darting, horseplaying, laughing and screaming down the rough winding trail which was bordered on one side by 20 to 60 foot dropoffs. Momma and poppa seemed completely unconcerned, paying lots more attention to their footwork than to the safety of the kids.

My brother literally couldn't take it and hurried to get around the next bend so as to avoid even watching lest one of the kids fall. I was fascinated. I'm sure it wasn't conscious but those parents had the right idea. Have six kids and then let them run and climb along the cliffs. Evolution will sort out which deserve to reproduce in the canyon country.

As a society we have become entirely too preoccupied with our own safety and the safety of our children. Perhaps it's because we have too few goslings in each clutch.

No one can call you judgmental
You wrote "People having children today are not the liberal, economically-successful, cosmopolitan types. Instead, its misogynist Muslims, polygamous Mormons, and clannish Mennonites who are having the babies."

You forgot to include blinkered Papists, bible thumping Baptists and snake handling loonies.

Life is strange. Isn't that wonderful in itself?
You are right, as far as it goes.

I suppose I will eventually slow down enough where raising infants would lose it's fun, but i've found more joy in my youngest (a 4 month old) than in all the previous. It is a matter of age and maturity, not the fault of my other kids. I also find I'm better at handling the demands of an infant and the other kids combined than I was 10 years ago. I've mellowed. Life is good. Kids are a kick!

Oddly, My first child arrived 17 1/2 years ago when I was 28; my last on Jan. 5 of this year. Part of being a good parent is being around to parent. Recognizing that I will be getting a bit long in the tooth when this new one turns 20 (I'll be 66) my wife and I decided to make sure it was the last (sadly and after some arguement). The issue is now decided for sure, and we both regret the necessity. Still, with the large lag from oldest to youngest, we are hoping to have grandkids to spoil long before our youngest is out of the house.

For me, kids make the world go around, not money. Sure I would like to have more and be able to afford better; but not if it costs me 1 additional minute with my kids.

The crime rate is down. It is safer today than it has ever been for children out alone. eom

Social Security recipients don't matter anyway
You wrote "In Europe though, you are looking at halving the population in about 50-60 years. Their tax and social security will be impossible to maintain. It would be a boon for America, after all are people going to work for 20% of their money. When they can move to America and keep 65-80% of their money."

Once the Europeans (or any of us) are beyond child bearing and productive years it really doesn't matter to nature what happens to them.

Our generation has made a "promise" to ourselves (Social Security) but we have put the cost of fulfilling that promise onto the next generation. It will not be surprising if the individuals of the next generation refuse to support the promise made in their name and instead arrange their lives so as to privately support their own parents, where their parents deserve support.

Your point about Europe is apt since young productive Europeans are already fleeing to lower tax countries. That flight will increase in volume over time, at least until the European left rationalizes the use of police state tactics to stifle it.

Only urbanization is requered.
'Reynolds gives no actual evidence, only his personal feelings to blame over regulation and liberal values for falling birth rates. Demographers around the world know that people have fewer children when they have access to birth control and economic security. Even China is learning that its radical one child policy is unnecessary in urban areas. '

Only urbanization is requered.


opinion and values
This is an opinion piece, not a scholarly article, so expecting detailed references is unrealistic.

And if birth control and economic security aren't liberal values, I'd like to know when that happened, because I've been aware of such things since the 60s, and I missed it.

car seats
"Some are worthwhile -- car seats, for example, are probably a net gain in safety -- but even there the cost is high"

Probably a net gain in safety for children under 2 years old. For kids older than 2, there is apparently no gain in safety over seat belts:

http://www.freakonomics.com/times0710col.php

and the worst part of car seats is. . .
We're raising a whole generation that will never know the sweet sense of relief that floods over you after you've engaged in an exquisitely careful panic stop while just barely restraining a standing 3 year old with your outstretched arm and the nearly inadequate muscles of your now aching shoulder.

Of course the experience was even better if you were half blinded by smoke from the cigarette held between your lips and you needed to exert significant force against the firewall with your left leg to keep yourself from sliding forward and applying too much pressure to the power brake pedal with your right foot.

Up, Up and Away!
When I was perhaps 5 or 6 years of age, my father had to make a panic stop while driving our 60's era station wagon (this was long before seatbelt laws and I don't believe anyone in the car was wearing seatbelts at the time) My little brother, who was sitting beside me in the back bench seat, was launched up and over the front seat -- landing head first between the legs of my mother and father. Luckily, my brother didn't hurt himself.

One of the funniest damn things I ever saw, even if my parents were scared senseless.

BIG FAMILIES HELP MAKE PAYING TAXES VOLUNTARY
BIG FAMILIES HELP MAKE PAYING TAXES VOLUNTARY

The tax code is set up so that paying taxes, if you work at it, and given time, is largely voluntary.

Having a lot of kids provides a hefty tax shelter; and home schooling them provides a top notch education while allowing one stay at home spouse to find and oversee investments and otherwise work a business from home while deducting home office expenses from income.

A self-directed Roth IRA solves the problem of paying taxes ever on the interest, capital gains, and income its investments earn; but money can be taken out tax-free only after age 59.5. The self-directed Roth IRA is especially suitable for short term profits on highly leveraged real estate and stock market options to which otherwise ordinary income tax rates apply. Of course, it is profitable too for long term capital gains

Buying rental income property shelters $3,636 per $100,000 of initial value of the improvements. Large value properties can be purchased for 10% down, providing $36,360 of depreciation shelter for a $100,000 down payment. If inflation is 3%, the investment earns 30% or $30,000 in appreciation, compounded yearly. Just form inflation the $1 million property would double in 24 years, tax free. Were it to be sold, the maximum tax would be 15% of the gain on the $100,000, or .15 x 1,900,000 = $270,000, for a net gain of $1,630,000 on $100,000 over 24 years. Of course, instead of one $1 million property, four $250,000 four-unit apartment buildings for example could have been bought. Thus do rents and property values rise exponentially.

As the property appreciates in value and the rents rise, it could be refinanced to supply the down payment on another property. Thus more income can be sheltered over time.

And yes, buying used cars saves sales taxes and huge amounts of permanently lost capital via the rapid depreciation of new cars; as much as $10,000 to $20,000. The opportunity cost of buying a new car is very high indeed, for that $10,000 could be earning at least 5% a year, or $500 and much more at 30% if part of a down payment on income real estate. And the opportunity cost is near double if bought on time due to interest charges.

There are other schemes for legally avoiding taxes, but these are the major ones easily available to everyone, and the most straight forward.

Hey, I'm a Bible Thumping Baptist!
My wife and I had only had two kids, so we apparently let down the cause since we didn't make it to 2.1. I work with children's ministries, and from my perch, I see a combination of Baptists having babies and people who have kids joining up because they believe it is good place to raise them.

I think the Baptists have babies because they celebrate children. They also--at least the churches that I've dealt with--spend lots of time and money helping parents with raising them.

population decline is awful
Just about every bit of engineering we've done in the modern age assumes population growth, or at least stability. We build roads, sewers, and other infrastructure on the assumption that people are going to be around to fix and replace it when it goes away. Downsizing infrastructure is *expensive*. Take sewers. If there's insufficient flow, they're useless and become a source of disease. So just as we narrow our tax base, we have to take the expensive step of reducing pipe width on our sewer systems or abandon cities entirely to keep the population up where we've decided to stick around.

This would get ugly, really ugly.

The PRC is in deep demographic trouble
They are almost entirely without social safety nets, have an economy geared toward much more manual labor, and are growing grey at a speed unprecedented in human history. Add onto that the PRC's stupid sex-selection demographic problems and you have multiple time bombs that are going to explode in the next few decades.

The PRC is just starting to figure out that not only is the one-child policy unnecessary but that it is counter-productive. Look forward to child bearing incentives in the PRC's future.

Environment is likely not determinative
If it were environmental (pollution) causing male and female sterility, you'd see a much higher demand for artificial conception help than you do today. There are people who have problems but they simply do not form the great bulk of people who are driving total female reproduction below 2.1 in so many countries.

no offense - I was reacting to RedStateProf's outrageous assertion
I'm not personally religious but I'd much prefer it if the country was more religious rather than less.

Organized religions can sometimes be destructive, just like all human organizations, but on the whole they have been vastly more constructive than otherwise in our country.

The question "Can we be good without God?" is mocked by many secular prosyletizers, but it is a very valid question in my view. And the answer will play out over generations rather than mere decades. The actions spawned by Fascism and Communism a couple of generations after much of Europe's intellectual elite absorbed the idea that God was dead were not especially pretty.

I sometimes provoke aggressively secular "liberal" posters on this site by calmly and persistently asking why it would be "wrong" for us to simply eliminate the offending population of an international problem country given that we have the capability to do so and there is by their own stements no absolute standard of morality by which to judge the matter.

Cities have been obsolescent since 1945 in any event
The invention of nuclear weapons made dense concentrations of population obsolescent, and the eventual spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction will eventually make them obsolete.

The future will belong to wide spread low density populations which can ride out attacks, retaliate to eliminate the threat and then repopulate the devastated areas. Fortunately the technical revolution has made it possible to have a high tech civilization without high density centers in which to interact.

As the general pointed out in Dr. Strangelove, we may get our hair mussed a little, but life will go on.

And who ever said we have any right to life without things getting ugly?

No offense taken ... I was just teasing
In my opinion, you make good points. Yes, history vividly reminds us that organized religion can be very destructive to include the various secular religions. As a Christian, one of my many duties is to keep under control those who would either consciously abuse the beliefs for their own gain and those who get carried away. The main weapon is the Bible itself since it clearly prohibits that sort of thing.

As for "Can we be good without God," that is one of the questions that attracted me to Christianity initially. (I was raised athiest and only much later
understood that God is large and in charge). God is the only escape from "might makes right." In my case, it was the only coherent answer to the question "so what."

Extremists of any kind scare me. The left gave us the likes of Robispierre (sp?), Hitler, Stalin, etc. The right gave us their various looney tunes to include some who claimed to be Christians.



Really?
So let's see, 61 years since 1945 and exactly how many city dwellers have died from nuclear attack?

It's really a bit silly to say that cities are obsolete under those conditions. Even if a terrorist gets a nuke and bombs a major city every 30 years or so, the number of deaths will pale compared to those of a century ago due to disease. And war has killed large portions of populations long before the advent of nukes.

-Bob

Compare the populations of inner cities today with that 61 years ago
I suspect that you will find those able to move from the dense population centers have tended to move away from the centers since 1945. This seems to me a complete reversal of tendencies prior to that when the affluent tended to move to cities.

I didn't say the cities had been abandoned - I said that they have become obsolete. The first terrorist nuclear attack will drive home the point but I have no doubt that the cities will struggle on even after that, just as cities on the slopes of volcanos struggle on.

What we teach kids about parenting
This weekend I shared the part about minivans vs. SUVS with my almost-15-year-old daughter. She can’t wait to get her learner’s permit, but cringes at the thought of being seen behind the wheel of our Toyota Sienna. She’s in total agreement that an SUV would be fine because it wouldn’t project that “mom image” she wants to avoid. (No, we are not trading it in for a Highlander.)

But when I explained what the column was about, she said something interesting: “All everybody talks about is how hard it is, and how bad it would be to have a baby.” “Everybody” being teachers, talking about the perils of teen parenthood.

This made me wonder: Is this reluctance to have children partly a result of widespread efforts to reduce teen pregnancy? Look at all the school programs designed to persuade teens that parenting is a huge responsibility, like having them carry around a “baby” (an egg or a sack of flour) for a week and keep a journal, and then swap stories in class about how hard it was to bear the constant responsibility. As a parent, this seems like a sensible approach, but maybe it’s working too well.

If all kids hear about is the downside of parenting, then where is the incentive to organize their lives in ways that lead to having a family life when they are adults? Maybe there’s a way to balance things with a message that societies need children to survive, and that parenting becomes manageable (even fun and rewarding!) if you finish your education, establish yourself at work, and marry your parenting partner.

Very good post
The problem is band-aid fixes. We don't have tome to get the point across that teen pregnancy is bad but having kids later can be good. Plus, many of these programs are now geared toward 12-14 year old middle-school kids. Hard enough to get any point across to that age group, and sending conflicting messages isn't a good idea.

Still, you may have a point.

There is nothing selfish about not having children.
Anything can be seen as selfish because humans are motivated by individual interest and for every man who contributes, there's some busybody deciding he hasn't contributed ENOUGH.

Many parents are selfish too. Many women in the South trick young men into marrying them by lying about birth control and then springing the old "I'm pregnant!" thing on them. Many parents emotionally manipulate their children. Becoming a parent doesn't automatically raise you up to some higher level citizen of society. If you think it does, then your view of the family is a fascist one: a collective that exists for itself, not for it's members.

Who cares if you think it's selfish? Your opinion of someone else's choices is of no importance unless it impacts you directly. I might suggest that YOU are the selfish one, for attempting to guilt trip other people into feeling obligated to have children, when it's obviously a personal decision and none of your business.

Coming from someone who knows!?
There is everything selfish. No, having kids does not automatically raise everyone to the level of citizen of society. But, for those with a heart and soul, it is an unbelieveable experience. It is life changing, unless your too self-absorbed to deal with it.

I, and I'm sure skeets, could care less what you do, just don't deny you do it all for you. You are a self centered individual who doesn't want to have to deal with the time and expense of actually taking care of a fully dependent individual.

Sadly, it is your loss. Something tells me that, if you really committed to it, you would be a good parent.

Is this a part of your ethics?...this judgment of other lifestyles?
I never said I wasn't selfish.

The problem is that you are claiming that you and Skeet claim that you aren't.

They are YOUR kids, aren't they? You don't feel all the specialness over someone else's kids? You don't think that's even remotely selfish, to put your kids before someone else's? Your DNA over someone else's?

It isn't that non-child couples are not selfish. It's that people like YOU are drawing out lame, pea-brained excuses for the fact that you willfully chose to take on extra responsibilities and that others willfully chose not to.

And can the bullcrap about "having a heart and soul". That's just eliteist judgment at it's worst. You are in no position to judge someone else's soul based on one issue.

You, yourself said it isn't a loss if you never had it to begin with. I'm happy without kids. No loss for me. Take your dishonest emotional manipulation to someone who is too stupid to see through it.

Your post is crap too.
That's nice that you love kids so much, but face it: You have a grudge against people who chose not to take on that responsibility, because those people get to enjoy things you don't.

Judging someone else's "heart and soul" according to whether or not they have kids, makes you a bigot.

Perhaps you should stop being so self-absorbed with yourself as a parent, and realize that people are more complex than you're giving them credit for.

nice, say what you will
But you have no frame of reference. I do in fact feel some of that specialness about others kids. You can't understand so you make believe the two lifestyles are equal. That is O.K., I understand.

I started somewhat late, I was 28 when my first was born and It wasn't my idea. I liked living free and easy, I liked hot rod cars, I liked my motorcycles. But, for me, my first look into those big brown eyes and the first touch of those tiny little fingers and it was all over. My life was going to be about this little child from then on. Since I've had three more and each evoked the same response on some primal level.

Perhaps your only frame of reference is parents who are selfish or who are poor. You don't want to raise kids the one way or live the other. Perhaps there are other reasons.

Whatever your deal is, don't think for a minute that those like me are "selfish". We are ego-centric to the extent that we can no longer understand those who want to live like you do. Our kids, and there friends, and their friends friends become big and important parts of our lives.

You are right about one thing, you never had it, don't want it and will never miss it. But you will always wonder and, later in life it is likely you will wish you had taken the opportunity to experience it.

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