Bryan Caplan  

Why People Don't Want More Kids, and What It Means

A Great Sentence... Wolfe in Safety's Clothing...
In my experience, virtually the only reason why people don't want more kids is that they don't feel like spending any more time on childcare.  The strictly financial cost of another child almost never comes up. 

Granted, I greatly oversample the well-educated and the top two quintiles of the income distribution.  But it's not like these people never gripe about money.  They just don't gripe about money in the context of family size.  When they think "bad stuff about another kid," it's all "sleepless nights, changing diapers, lactating, and crying," not "no French vacation, no nice restaurants, and waiting three more years for a new car."

When someone rattles off a list of unwanted childcare duties, it's easy to understand the connection between their complaints and their unwillingness to have another child.  They don't feel like doing the work, and the work is, in their eyes, the bulk of the cost of the next kid.

What I don't understand, though, is why people are so resistant to reversing this argument.  If another kid means a lot of work, that's a big reason against having another kid.  Doesn't it necessarily follow, then, that if someone figures out how to sharply reduce the per-child workload, that is a big reason in favor of having another kid? 

I don't see any way around this.  Do you?

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (39 to date)
Jacob Oost writes:

Wow, now I suddenly don't feel so bad about my comment about Cowen (sorry Cowen!).

Anyway, where are you going with this Mr. K? I mean, I'm with you up to the last paragraph, but it seems like you have more to say about this but didn't for some reason. Of course it changes the cost/benefit analysis of something if you can reduce the cost (ceterus paribus). Are you saying there are special implications here? Are you advocating nannies? I for one do not advocate that sort of thing except in perhaps a very limited fashion.

Fo' example, I used to go to day care at the YMCA my mom worked at. It wasn't all of the time, it wasn't a 24/7/365 mom replacement like how some people use child care services, and my mom or people I knew were always nearby. So I don't categorically oppose day care or babysitting, though I think it is extensively overused by many families. FWIW, I consider kindergarten, pre-school, etc. to be little more than government-funded day care, and I DO NOT LIKE IT as the full cost of child-rearing is not being borne by those having children, but by tax-payers who may or may not have children.

Steve writes:

I think you are sampling the wrong people. The main reason my wife and I decided not to have more children, was all about cost. Those "time" constraints are what makes being a parent so rewarding.

Steve writes:

"Doesn't it necessarily follow, then, that if someone figures out how to sharply reduce the per-child workload, that is a big reason in favor of having another kid?"

Indeed, I saw an article about a couple of years ago about how all these hedge fund and private equity managers were all starting to have bigger families of four or five kids. Back during the dot com era, people in Manhattan were saying "three is the new two." There was an article, likely in New York magazine, about how all the related expenses of a larger family were then less burdensome, e.g., if you have three kids in NYC, that means you eventually have to take two cabs to get anywhere, rather than just piling into one.

What of the cost of college, which strikes me as a much greater burden? Also higher earners' time is more dear, so it they are less likely to substitute home child care for work outside the home. Many educated people also spend their off time in activities that can potentially be remunerative: reading, writing that novel, taking classes, etc.

Mark writes:

There may be another dynamic at play. The most socially acceptable reason for not having more kids may be the timesink argument. It's less selfish than saying that you cannot afford it, especially if you clearly can if only you give up the summer home. As a childless, Canadian ex-pat, the basic reason that we decided not to have children after moving down here were (in descending order):

1/ Lack of family care (i.e. free and available), since our families were in Canada
2/ The ungoldy cost of higher education in this country.

While we are probably in the top 10% of income earners in this country, the thought of spending $150k of our retirement to educate each of the kids stopped us cold in our tracks. My top-notch education at the University of Toronto (fairly equivalent to the Ivy League tier of schools) cost me $1400 per year in 1990.

Because reason 2 makes me sound selfish, I always cite reason 1 when someone is rude enough to pry into my personal life that deeply.

Steve writes:

Mark: if your education at the U of T was "fairly equivalent to the Ivy League," why can't you afford to have kids?

I paid 1200 a year at my US state school around the same time. I believe it is now about 2000+ a year. The state school route is fairly cheap, depending on the state, but truly higher educated families want to send their kids to better schools, and this cuts more deeply into their budgets. I'd rather have just a couple of kids and be able to afford to send them to good schools early decision. The family is a socialist institution, and many successful families (think about the model minorities) are willing to make big sacrifices in their own lives to help out their kids. It's not a free lunch for the kids, because they have to get good grades, and will have to pay for their own kids educations. If my kids don't do well in high school, wow, that will be vast windfall, ha ha.

Lowering the time costs of having children would certainly encourage more children, and lowering the money costs would too. I teach personal finance at the University of Arizona, and I can tell you the costs are very substantial for people around the median of income and wealth. Another daycare bill is a big deal for them.

There are enormous positive externalities to (well reared) children, although I know Libertarians hate that externalities exist, and are enormous, because they mean that Libertarian fantasy economics is in reality far less efficient and wealth creating than allowing a government role in the economy.

The more children who are well educated (or even moderately educated and law abiding), the faster science, medicine, technology, and economic wealth will grow in the future. This is true largely due to enormous economies of scale, especially for idea/information production. As acclaimed growth economist and Nobel short-lister Paul Romer said in an excellent interview with Reason magazine:

It's so striking. Evolution has not made us any smarter in the last 100,000 years. Why for almost all of that time is there nothing going on, and then in the last 200 years things suddenly just go nuts?

One answer is that the more people you're around, the better off you're going to be. This again traces back to the fundamental difference I described before. If everything were just objects, like trees, then more people means there's less wood per person. But if somebody discovers an idea, everybody gets to use it, so the more people you have who are potentially looking for ideas, the better off we're all going to be. And each time we made a little improvement in technology, we could support a slightly larger population, and that led to more people who could go out and discover some new technology

A huge time cost of children is just the daily shuttling around, driving them to and from school, then to and from after-school and weekend programs and activities. This is often ridiculously inefficient on so many levels, because if all of the parents in the community could get together and hire a bus or shuttle company to drive the kids it would save enormous time and pollution, but it doesn't happen so often because, first, there is a big coordination problem, getting all of those parents together to agree on this and its particulars, and then collecting money regularly.

A private company could try to do this, but there are big economies of scale to be had here, and a private company would run into problems reaching this scale – and if they did, they would have a great deal of monopoly power which would bring inefficiencies. In addition, a lot of parents might not trust a private company whose managers and/or owners have incentives to make a short-term buck by hiring less competent drivers and checking their criminal backgrounds less thoroughly.

Libertarians like to pretend that it's always profit maximizing to do what's best for the customer in the long run, but it should be obvious after what we've seen lately that often that's far from the truth. Often, it's hard for the customer to know, and often you can make so much in the short run that it's worth going out of business eventually, and perhaps then just re-forming under a new name. Plus, very often the owner, or managers who run the business, will retire, or be at another job, long, long before the costs to the customers become well known, if they ever even do become well known to the public – information, in the real world, is far from perfect or costless in money and time, and people will often do risky sub-optimal things to avoid short-term pressures and costs, or to gain short term rewards.

So, for many reasons, this is clearly an area where government may be able to create great efficiency and net value, by running high economies of scale shuttle systems to school and many of these organized activities children engage in today. Parents will not have to spend many hours per week driving (and creating excess pollution and congestion). Government can enforce the economies of scale by requiring all parents to pay for it with taxes and then providing it for free to all parents.

Jacob Oost writes:

What externalities? I benefit from all of the scientific research that went into electronics, computers, phones, etc., but these are not *external* benefits that I am enjoying, these are things I paid for. It's only an external benefit if you aren't paying.

The government can and should provide "citizenship education," as Friedman calls it, i.e. history, how the government works, reading, writing, arithmetic, i.e. things everybody needs to know not just for themselves but so that everybody can benefit from having an educated populace. But vocational education, i.e. learning a trade, medical school, engineering school, should not be paid for by people who won't benefit.

I'm about to go back to college to study computer science (I dropped out years ago). When I get out, who is going to benefit from my education? People who buy whatever I produce.

jb writes:

I decided to stop at 3 because my wife was completely frazzled and short-tempered and seemingly unable to cope with all the demands on her time (many of these were created by herself - she insisted on homeschooling, and she has a very hard time staying focused or organized).

Money was definitely not the issue. And I didn't have any particular objection to more except for her struggles. So I would say that if there had been a way for the kids to be well-cared for while significantly reducing her stress, I must agree with Bryan.

Stephen Gordon writes:

I'm pretty sure that this is in fact a prediction of the Barro-Becker endogenous fertility model. In fact, Jeremy Greenwood (et al) had a paper in the JPE (I think) claiming that the post-war baby boom was due to the development of household work-saving devices (refrigerators, freezers, any number of electric appliances) that essentially reduced the costs of having children.

And one of the predictions of the Barro-Becker model is that the effects of such a cost reduction on fertility would be transitory.

What externalities? I benefit from all of the scientific research that went into electronics, computers, phones, etc., but these are not *external* benefits that I am enjoying, these are things I paid for.

That doesn't come close to fully internalizing the benefits. So much of scientific and technical advancement cannot practically be patented, or price discriminated, and how are the benefits to future generations internalized. There are gaping flaws in the free market internalizing system here.

Yancey Ward writes:

Watching the parents of today is simply hilarious and mindboggling all at the same time. When did the idea, that parents should spend all their personal time involved in their childrens' lives and activities, become the norm? After about age 4 or 5 I and my oldest sister spent little time during the day or evenings in the same room with either parent. It was understood that we had to fill our own time in our own ways within boundaries. After age 7 or 8, neither parent could even tell you where I was when I wasn't in school- I just had to be home by a certain time.

Yancey Ward writes:


Efficiencies on the level of today's elementary and high schools?

And when you say forcing all parents to pay for it, do you really mean that literally, or are you just assuming everyone is a parent? And if not, do you have pay if you don't use it?

Actually, with the subject the costs of child rearing, I should have mentioned the extrnalities to parents. In so many advanced European countries the population growth rate is negative, even close to an average of one child per every two adults. Do you think parents, in deciding how many children to have and considering the costs, are considering the benefits to others of raising well educated children to advance, science, medicine and the human condition? Do you think they will fully internalize those benefits with everyone who enjoys them? Do you think this might be one reason for such low birth rates, and relative decreases in the production of these countries and their contributions to science, medicine, and technology?

Yancey Ward writes:

I have always believed that the birthrate is falling in the advanced economies primarily because people don't expect to have to depend on their children for support in their elderly years.

Don writes:

I think it's more likely that social pensions have externalized the benefit of child rearing. Once upon a time, your children were your retirement plan -- they would care for you when you could no longer provide for yourself. In these 'advanced' European countries, the government has assumed that role, which of course means that other people's children pay the taxes that provide for you in your retirement. Socialism has changed child rearing from a private good to a public good, with predictable results.

You'd do well, Richard, to remember that governments can create market failures, too.

Jacob Oost writes:

Can you provide examples Richard?

And while I'm at it let me point out that libertarian economists are not anti-government or categorically opposed to the government getting involved in creating technology. In enterprises which would be enormously beneficial but which would not yield a profit for those undertaking it (such as lighthouses or certain natural monopolies) I don't see any serious libertarian economists opposing the government getting involved. However, we generally prefer the use of markets to the greatest extent possible, not for dogmatic reasons but for efficiency reasons.

But many times these problems are created by government intervention or the lack of government support to the economy (such as guaranteeing property rights). Take drug companies. It makes no sense for a drug company to create a drug that cures cancer, because they would have no hope of making a profit off of it. Why? Because either the government would force the company to sell the drug at a less-than-profitable cost, OR foreign countries would reproduce the drugs themselves in defiance of patent law. This is a case where either too much intervention (price controls) or too little support for property rights and the other institutions the market needs to function, creates a problem that only government can solve.

So much of what is wrong in the economy today is of this nature. Enormous regulations, often procedure-based rather than results-based, in various sectors of the economy leads to enormous inflexibility and inhibited competition (because of the high price of entry into the industry), making the only viable short-term fix *even more government intervention*, since true deregulation in the US is virtually politically impossible, rare, and often trivial when it happens.

But about those externalities, you were saying......

CK writes:

Bryan Caplan,

I find your obsession with the topic of people's personal choices to be deeply creepy. Also, the fact that your starting point is that they are in error is a textbook example of bad logic, e.g., assuming what you need to prove. Furthermore, it is highly against the logic of economics to assume that you know people's preferences and/or utility function better than they do (cf., consumer sovereignty).

This post only deepens the morass of confusion regarding your thinking on this topic.

Your generalization about why people don't want to have more children is a classic example of using anecdotes where you would need evidence. It's not clear such evidence--e.g., people's real reasons--is even readily available through the tools of social science. File this under "Yet another reason Bryan's Campaign to Get People to Have More Kids" is ill-conceived (pun intended). This line of inquiry is just impractical; the data you're looking for is inherently private. (It may even be hidden from ourselves!)

That said, if we're going to play the "idle, fruitless, inherently silly speculation game," well, I guess I can venture an entry.

Having children is becoming more expensive in the only resource that really counts: opportunity cost. People are hard-wired to want to spend a certain percentage of their FREE time with their children. Over the decades, as we get wealthier, we are coming to have more free time and more awesome stuff do with the free time. Thus, raising children, which happiness studies have shown is tedious, exhausting, depressing and stupid, is displacing significantly more and more awesome stuff. (The only reason we have kids is because we're slaves of our genes.)

So there you go. Having children is costing us more and more in terms of reduced opportunities. Basic rationality dictates people, on average, will have less children as the world gets wealthier and the opportunity cost is higher. And, lo, the actual evidence follows the logic. Wealthy societies have fewer children because having children displaces projects that are actually enjoyable and meaningful.

Thomas writes:

I'm a father of five daughters. Any time I have the 5 of them with me and we're out and about, I get comments from perfect strangers. "That's a lot of weddings." "Five for college, and then weddings." "Start saving now." That sort of thing. And folks that I know, but not well, ask how we think we can do it financially. When people think about someone else's large family, they apparently think about how much it costs.

Financial matters are unusual. Knowing someone well may make it less likely that you'd have an open discussion of money. I make lots of decisions based in part on money, and yet when I explain those decisions to friends, I don't often talk about money.

Jacob Oost writes:

Well, as an amateur economist, I'm pretty darn interested in decision-making. I assume Mr. K is too. You may be reading too much into what is merely a hobby.

Don, do you want to go back to the days of no Social Security and Medicare for our seniors? The cure would be much worse than the disease. In those days poverty was common among seniors; they were the largest group in poverty, and you had to walk by many of them living in the street -- talk about a negative externality.

Jacob, "libertarian economists are not anti-government or categorically opposed to the government getting involved in creating technology." -- there's a lot of Libertarians who would say these economists aren't Libertarian, and a lot of Republicans who would say this is not Republican. Republicans and Libertarians fight high return government investment in technology all the time.

By the usage I've seen commonly, you and your "libertarian economists" are not Libertarian but center right -- or left, considering the extreme positions of the Republican party and machine today.

Jacob Oost writes:

So I don't get my examples, then.......

ivan writes:

I think a potential reason is that leisure time becoming more valuable. We have so much wonderful things to do with our free time. It's dumb to be stuck by kids. Actually, having a young kid to take care, some even normal activities will be very difficult, such as shopping, eat out, hang out with friends, etc. Time is a real constraint. When a society requires a mom to behave like a mom, even those really rich can not get much substitute.

Ok. It's very the same as what CK said above. But I think the recently hot behavioral genetics will deliver us.
Since the nature is the dominant factor in child development. We can actually reproduce out of the traditional family institution. Government can take that job. Higher level of specification can be developed. They can, or through funding private companies, hire women's wombs to bear children. Every pregnancy can have multiple births. All children can be taken care by specialists.
It will be more efficient. The quality of the population will be higher, and the quantity will that we want exactly.

Parent and related words will be obsolete.

Brandon Berg writes:

It's only an external benefit if you aren't paying.

The external benefit is in your consumer surplus. Think of all the things you can buy today that you couldn't buy 200 years ago. Are you better off having the ability to buy those things than you would be if you couldn't, even taking into acocunt the fact that you do have to pay for them? Your external benefit is the value to you of the opportunity to exchange money for those things.

There are enormous positive externalities to (well reared) children...

Fair enough. But it follows from this that subsidies to encourage reproduction should be targeted towards those who tend to produce the children with the highest positive externalities—i.e., those with above-average intelligence and/or incomes. Levying a progressive income tax and using the proceeds to pay for services available to everyone is, of course, exactly the wrong way to go about this.

I guess in principle we could have subsidies that increase the quality (but not quantity) of chlidren produced by the lower classes, but finding interventions that actually do this has proven quite difficult.

Don writes:

"Don, do you want to go back to the days of no Social Security and Medicare for our seniors? The cure would be much worse than the disease. In those days poverty was common among seniors; they were the largest group in poverty, and you had to walk by many of them living in the street -- talk about a negative externality."

And that's why Bill Gates will collect Social Security.

Richard, it's very entertaining to see you set up straw men who deny the existence of any market failures, and then knock them down. Your faith in government to solve the problems of the market, though, is every bit as foolish. It's true that real markets often fall short of their theoretical ideal, which means that in theory a government might improve efficiency. But governments often fall short of their theoretical ideal, too.

tom writes:

"If another kid means a lot of work, that's a big reason against having another kid. Doesn't it necessarily follow, then, that if someone figures out how to sharply reduce the per-child workload, that is a big reason in favor of having another kid?"

This really depends on how much the costs of having a child are tied to the benefits. If you have plenty of money and hire a full time nanny you are likely to miss the first words, first steps, expressions of endearment. So many of the benefits of having a kid are tied to the time you spend with it, so your labor saving device would have to target the most tiring and least rewarding times (crying at 3am) without losing to many of the precious moments.

mjh writes:
if someone figures out how to sharply reduce the per-child workload, that is a big reason in favor of having another kid?
That is *exactly* the reason that we have 4 children, and not any more. We would have more except for that it's already completely exhausting at the amount we have. We talk about adopting after our youngest child (3 years old) is more able to take care of himself. If there were a way to make child rearing easier today, I would be interested in it. And if that lowered the amount of childcare below our lower bound, I think we'd consider additional children (probably through adoption).
What I don't understand, though, is why people are so resistant to reversing this argument.
People are resistant to this? Really?
whats'what writes:

whether it's because of time (Bryan's examples: sleepless nights, changing diapers, lactating, and crying) or money, it's just the basic economic problem---resource contraints; the two are the same.

"the well-educated and the top two quintiles of the income distribution", as Bryan observed, generally tend to have less kids. However, the rest of the population who actually have more kids do not necessarily want more kids. Both groups know the "cost" (not merely financial) associated with more kids. The key difference is that those who have less children have a better self control (eg.prevention,etc; not suppressing the action), whereas the other group think less often (relatively, of course) about the consequences of their own actions.

That difference, I believe, can also explain the income discrepency between them. If someone rarely thinks about the consequences of his/her actions, he/she is not likely to do well financially.

"Doesn't it necessarily follow, then, that if someone figures out how to sharply reduce the per-child workload, that is a big reason in favor of having another kid?" The only function of having a child is to pass along half of your own genes. All the supposed "joy" and the other emotional "thing" are just derivatives of that function. With that function being the benefit of having the child, the cost being the cost mentioned by Bryan, per-child workload+others. Then, using the equilibrium concept, I guess you have to reduce the cost so that it is algebraically lower than the benefit in order to induce the production.

But then not everyone value that benefit equally, provided they all value them at all; if kids simply mean costs because the benefit feels so marginal relative to the cost, you'll never get more people.

In conclusion, why worry? Natural selection will do all the work. People who have more kids will gradually replace those who don't. And life goes on. Any reduction in population is temporary if your time horizon is like, say, few centuries or longer, so long as natural environment stays the same. As soon as you have enough want-more-kids people and sufficient resources, population will start growing again.

Man v.s Nature, Man never wins.

Piper writes:

I think a lot of you are missing the key factor: working women. To maintain their social position, and to have any chance of putting the few kids they produce into the "right" social group (by raising them in an appropriate neighborhood, sending them to suitable schools, etc.), most "middle class" couples now have to put both parents out to work. Then they don't have time (mom doesn't have time) to care for kids, so they have to put them in daycare, which has the well-documented effect of making the kids themselves much more pushy and whiny (they develop such behaviours in the struggle for attention and dominance at daycare). Of course the daycare is very costly,[1] so the burden of children seems magnified. Extremely rich people can hire educated nannies, but merely top-two-quintiles people can only afford illegal aliens, so if they go that route they end up disqualifying yourself from future government jobs and getting kids who want to talk to their folks in a language they don't actually speak (plus there is the "Lupita's gangster boyfriend" problem).

Since women are expected to work now, that means parents have to push their daughters to get a lot of education so they can get "good jobs," so those daughters delay marriage and childbearing. Older parents have less energy to spend on children, and they have more habits of life developed without children-- so again the hassle children present seems magnified. If you have your first kid at 24 you have fewer habitual pleasures to subordinate than if you have your first kid at 35.

I can't think of any rapid, politically-feasible way to return society to the much-wiser "one adult wage worker may support a family without loss of social class" model.

[1] Current government "subsidies" to daycare are mostly counterproductive. The subsidies are rigged to redistribute wealth from earners to moochers. Nothing can be more galling to married "middle class" wage earners who need daycare to have both children and jobs (which pay something more than daycare costs), than to confront the Federal Income Tax which surtaxes married workers (though the surprisingly stiff "marriage penalty") and people who earn more than the median income (through "deduction phaseouts" and such), then uses the money to subsidize one-earner couples and workers who earn less than the cost of daycare. In a reasonable world no one would get a daycare subsidy to help them hold a job which pays less than the cost of daycare! Then the skewed subsidies drive up the price of daycare by giving extra money to some parents, against which unsubsidized parents must then compete for slots.

Since daycare costs are business expenses, in the "cost of producing income" sense, they should be fully deductible (without "phaseouts" or other limitations). Under such a model no one would work for wages less than the cost of required daycare. All other daycare subsidies should be repealed. Daycare providers would be better-off too, since the parents of their little charges would be people capable of earning more than the price of daycare for their kids, therefore more pleasant to deal with.

(Yes, I would even allow parents to deduct wages paid to nannies, though only if said nannies were fully taxed as employees (FICA, Medicare, income taxes withheld, the whole nine yards). That's actually a current legal requirement-- look at the Kimba Woods case).

Methinks writes:

Indeed, I saw an article about a couple of years ago about how all these hedge fund and private equity managers were all starting to have bigger families of four or five kids.

Interesting. Of course, about 99% of these hedge fund managers and private equity guys are men with non-working wives. I'm a woman who runs a a similar firm and even though I can afford as much childcare as I want, I can't "afford" the time off to have a child and I can't live with the consequences of my child being raised entirely by someone else. Basically, it's my career or a child but not both - at least not both done well. Recently, another factor has crept in - the debt with which government will burden future generations. I suspect that as more women enter very demanding fields, the opportunity cost of children will rise and birth rates will decline. Also, the less optimistic we are about the future, the less inclined we will be to have children.

Dan Weber writes:
It was understood that we had to fill our own time in our own ways within boundaries. After age 7 or 8, neither parent could even tell you where I was when I wasn't in school- I just had to be home by a certain time.
That would get your parents sent to jail today.

I'm not approving of the change in society, mind you. Children are seen more some kind of hobby or investment than they are as individuals and that's a shame.


You mean examples of externalities regarding children?

I already gave some.

Any advancement that they produce in science, medicine and technology that can't be patented, which is clearly a huge amount is an external benefit to market transactions, plus even if it can be patented, the patent lasts only about 17 years (and there are serious problems to making that longer, see here). Any benefits after those 17 years are externalities.

The parents who decide whether to have children and rear and educate them well don't sell the benefits of those children to others in the markets, thus those benefits are external to the parents decision. On the negetive end, there are the negative externalities of having children and raising them poorly, so they are more likely to commit crimes against others external to the parent's decisions.


I didn't say pure government is best for everything, and I didn't say the pure free market is best for everything. What optimizes total societal utility and what optimizes growth in science, medicine, technology, and economic wealth is a mix.

You seem to favor a mix too, so I don't know if you fit the definition of a Libertarian, certainly not the definition of a lot of self-identified Libertarians.

And, clearly I don't favor Bill Gates getting social security, or anyone anywhere near that wealthy. But I do favor it going to anyone even close to middle class or poorer, and that will create an externality as you point out, but one worth creating given the severe problems of the alternative.

Floccina writes:

Richard H. Serlin why do you surmise that schools both public and private do such a poor job of doing what you want them to do now.

Why does school not run from 8:00am to 5:00pm?
Why do schools do such a poor job keeping kids safe from bullies?
Why do schools teach so little of valuable practical things?
Why the big emphasis on testing that squeeze out teaching?
Why are languages so often taught as academic exercises?
Why so much homework when it has not been shown to help?

I do not buy that the reason that the schools are under funded.

Vit writes:

If another kid means a lot of work, that's a big reason against having another kid.

The dependence is not linear. Elder children can help a lot. The step from 1 to 2 is bigger than from 2 to 3 or from 3 to 4.

IMVO money and advertising are more important.

Jacob Oost writes:

Well I thought we were talking about vocational training, not child-rearing. In any event, merely having a kid does not produce those externalities, the externalities you listed come from actually producing things with ones human capital. The child-rearing is irrelevant to this.

If anything, the externalities you listed provide a rationale for the government funding *some* peoples' vocational training, but by no means all.

And more to the point, rather than it being a settled matter that the government needs to fund pure research, I think that this is merely a hypothesis, and a dubious one at best.

Fo' example:

Me writes:

I don't want to have children either. I think if the woman is going to be the one giving birth and feed the child for the next 18 years... I think is should be the woman who decides if she wants to have children. I think people around you, church leaders, relatives should not have a say in this matter. I am 27 years old I work with children and as the days go by I don't want children. I notice that children sometimes are treated like toys, some mothers even joke that they have children so they can use them in their taxes... it sounds funny but at the end children are the ones that suffer. I think is selfish from people that have children because they love each other and they feel is time. I know so many Mormons that they can barely support themselves and they are planing to have children. I have seen mothers that have four or six children you can see them struggling.

darjen writes:

"Doesn't it necessarily follow, then, that if someone figures out how to sharply reduce the per-child workload, that is a big reason in favor of having another kid?

I don't see any way around this. Do you?"

Yes... polygamy. If you had 2 or 3 wives instead of just one, how would this not reduce the per-child workload? Or, something like the family units described in Robert Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" would also work.

People who do cite financial reasons for not having kids are being somewhat short sighted. Before socialist government safety nets, people relied more on their family for those things. If I raise my kids the best I can and they turn out well, I might be able to fall back on them as a safety net in a retirement emergency.

Amanda0970 writes:

The opportunity cost of having another child IS astronomical… as Mr. Caplan mentioned, three additional years for a new car, etc. Financially and time-wise, many more things will have to wait with an addition to the family. I think this is a huge part of the reason families are rejecting the idea of another baby.

I’m just glad we live in a democratic country with no government intervention in family planning as of yet. The positive effects of China’s one-child policies will become apparent within the next few generations (not immediately due to the population momentum conundrum) but I think that that idea is only relevant to their nation. China also based that policy on a vast majority of indigenous people; immigration contributes to 25% of U.S. population growth. So regardless of any kind of federal family planning intervention, child-limiting policies, etc., the U.S. “population” would be in constant turmoil due to the amount of people entering and leaving the country.

Then again, would we experience outmigration if that policy were to be the case? I heard every McCain supporter and their mom back at the end of 2008, “I’m packing up and I’m goin’ to Canada.” No, you’re not. But would they? With such a huge limitation as how many children a couple can have, which ultimately a decision that I believe is between a husband and wife (however you’d like to define that), would we see a mass exodus to Canada or other nation in which multiple children per family has not become taboo? And if so, could that almost be HELPFUL for us?

In terms of the environment, the Earth’s physical and economic carrying capacity is unknown, but some experts say we overshot it back at 2 billion. (The numbers also go as high as 40 million.) One American baby is estimated to have the environmental impact equivalent to that of 250 Bangladeshi babies. (Given that current fertility rates don’t help balance out the impact, because there probably are many, many babies born in countries like Bangladesh for every one American baby.)

So no, I really don’t see any way around this.

Mandy writes:

I have little girl and she is best baby ever but when I tell people I'm done having kids they freak out like its a sin not to but I listed my reason why....

1. We cant afford it....thanks to the state she was a healthy baby.
2. She doesn't need siblings we have 5 big dogs for that...I survived and am very very thankful for not having brothers or sisters.
3. She is such a good baby that the next would most defintantly be a wild child!
4. Our house isn't big enough....and selling right now is out of the question.
5. I would feel bad having to pawn them off when they get sick or make some else always take them to their appointments. I would know cause my mother in law always calls us when one of her four are sick or have an appointments. And she is on state funding and has an EBT card because she can't afford them.

I saw people when I would go get new wic checks that would have 4 or more kids and the only way they got fed was though the wic checks or an EBT card. I mean come on if you couldn't afford the first one why have more? I just dont see the logic. And of course my mother in law says I need atleast 4. She's crazy.

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