Monday, January 24, 2005

The Birth Rate (or lack thereof)

Angry in TO has an interesting post on his theory of why the birthrate has declined so substantially.

Angry in TO makes the argument that the creation of a social safety net and universal pension scheme has undercut the pragmatic need to have children to look after you in your old age.

He does have a point, in that children did have a much higher economic pay off than they do today. When society was of a more agrarian bent, they performed chores and contributed significally to the work that was done on the farm. Often performing easier but time consuming tasks and freeing up their parents for the harder or more complex work. Additionally the more children one had, the more work they could do. Thus large families were not seen as a burden. This would have been true to a lesser extent in the cities, although there after often examples of children working in family stores, and in factories (if you go back far enough)

However, now if children have jobs the money is going into their own stream of revenue and nothing is really being kicked back on up to the parents. Hence children are simply a liability.

While pragmatically children are less desirable, I think one point Angry fails to address is that people really didn't have alot of choice in the past. They wanted to have sex and nature ran its course and children would come about as a result. After all the nights can get rather long, what else is there to do?

The modern ability to indulge in physical pleasures without the entailed risk of having children has been fundamental to the decline of the birthrate. Couples can "have their cake and eat it too" as it were.

I also think that the larger number of women in the work force, and their devotion to their career as opposed to the prior orientation specifically to the family has had a rather profound influence of the negative trend in birth rates. I think if one wants to see a positive birth rate the ability to do so is going to have to reconcile both the opporunity cost to women in forgoing their careers for 3/4's of a year at a time, and making raising children more economically desirable.


At 1:38 p.m., Blogger angry_in_t_o said...

Thanks for looking over my post, and for the insightful comments. At the end of my post I did mention that the crash in birth rates has happened for many different reasons, though I didn't list them, and it would take a small book to enumerate each in turn and consider their relative impacts. My goal was to highlight a reason for dropping birth rates that is usually never mentioned (women in the workforce, divorce, and birth control are the obvious answers mentioned by most people), a reason that, at first glance, doesn't seem to have a relationship to birth rates (pensions are about retirees, for crying out loud -- what does that have to do with kids?). I don't know if is the most important reason, but I find the timeline suspicious. I am pleased that you thought the argument made sense. It's great to get that sort of feedback.


At 1:42 p.m., Blogger angry_in_t_o said...

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