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Oct 17, 2023·edited Oct 17, 2023

For what it's worth, now that my wife and I are in our 50s, I wish we had 1 or 2 more kids. Not a soul rending regret, but more of an "I wish I knew" thing.

At the time, I was worried about the responsibility, and felt worried that if my job fell through or something I wouldn't be able to support a 3-4 kid family, which in hindsight seems a little silly.

Now, even if I were to remarry a younger woman, I'd feel on the older side to have more kids.

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https://www.gurus.org/doug-muder/articles/childlessness/

You may enjoy this old piece. The author was a mathematician-turned-amateur-reporter who chose not to have children, but advocated strongly for the childless to be part of the child rearing projects of those close to them.

I am now the father of two children (and stopping at two, because it's the number I can parent well), and have always felt like this article helped me to make my choice.

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How confident are you that you couldn't parent well a 3rd? I think we err too much on the side of not having kids here.

(I have one, and we intend to have a second. I might want a 3rd but I'm not the one who has to carry the pregnancy)

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Very confident. I'm like a 9 out of 10 energy naturally, but I'm 40 and somewhat overweight. The baby is turning out pretty mild, but the first daughter has my father's 10 out of 10 energy, a real workhorse, and she's 5. She's very well behaved (my standards are high, my parenting strong) but when we compare with other parents, or even our younger child, the effort required to do a good job with her is like... four normal kids. Maybe five.

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What is the reflection that means you now see that belief as silly?

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Some of it is survivor bias, since it didn't happen, but I think I was overestimating the damage that would have occurred.

I work in an uncertain industry, so there was and is definitely risk of a career shock, but in hindsight, it would have been disruptive even with the two kids we had, and it would have been manageable even with four. Either way, it might have meant a move and/or a career change, and might have reduced the private school, vacations and nice restaurants.

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Well, you answered your own question (and something that was evaded in this LOOONG article)... people are choosing material goods like eating out, vacations, private school, fancy colleges, etc. over having children.

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I mean, private school and prestigious colleges are spending *on children*, and besides, I think the OP was fearing much more dire things, just maybe not ones that realistically would have happened

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Yeah, I was worried about not being able to support the kids at all to my and my wife's lower bound standard. In hindsight, a smallish risk of having to cut back on luxury consumption and maybe work harder for less money wasn't as bad as I thought it was, but some of that is that the risk looks smaller in hindsight than it did looking forward, so I can't say which is correct.

Ultimately though, I think the risk would have been similar with 2 kids or with 4, but again, maybe hindsight is incorrect in this case.

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A near-perfect illustration of one of my favourite sayings: “Si jeunesse savait; si vieillesse pouvait.”

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My wife had a caesarian for our first child, which with our local hospital meant that any future kids we had would require caesarians as well. We still had more kids, but that definitely put an artificial limit on the number.

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Funny how people will SCREAM AT THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS about abortions being health care, women's choice, with no limitations right up to the day of delivery... think they have the right to tell women how they are entitled to give birth.

Some women desperately want to have a vaginal birth... some want it unmedicated too!... others want the conveniences of a planned, timed caesarian section (which spares your lady parts from all kinds of unpleasant things, including incontinence and episiotomies).

Please do not presume to TELL WOMEN how they should give birth.

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There is no limit on how many caesarian deliveries a woman can have, and the objection was probably that your wife didn't want to go through surgery again. I don't know your local hospital, but vaginal birth after caesarean is not new or rare today.

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Hope your wife is aware that you are already thinking of remarriage to a younger woman.

Let me know how that works out...

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LOL! Would it help or hurt if I said that the only circumstance under which I might remarry a younger woman is if my wife left me or died. ;-)

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@J Mann: I know you are probably joking around but... a lot of men apparently fantasize about marrying or remarrying much younger women... it just doesn't happen often (*unless you are a fabulously rich superstar). Young women want partners close to their age, so THEY (the young women) can have families.... there are some exceptions of course.

The biggest risk to this "plan" is that the much younger woman who WANTS a 60 yr old husband when she is 24... is almost certainly a gold digger.

But seriously: YOU DO YOU.

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Sorry for not being more clear. If my wife were to leave me or die, and if I remarried, I'm sure it would be to someone close to my age.

In the original post, I just meant that my window to father more children has basically closed, regardless of eventuality - that even if I did somehow marry a younger woman, I'm now old enough that I would be uncomfortable having more kids.

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LOL, sorry ... nuance is so lacking in these posts. If I had said this in real life, you'd see that I had a half smile on my face. I used to tell my husband that if he died first... my next husband would be a 24 yr old cabana boy in a Speedo!

Like you of course... reality would be quite different. When my dad was widowed... he waited 8 years until he dated again, and then remarried a woman two years OLDER than himself.

Yes, like women have a window for fertility... so do men. It is a myth that men are fertile into their 80s and beyond. (If you read about that... it is with donor sperm.) Most urologists say that pregnancies fathered by men over 55 are extremely rare. Male fertility declines after 45... very close to when women's do... only it is less obvious, since A. men that age are mostly not trying to impregnate anyone and B. men do not menstruate, which is a monthly "sign" of fertility.

I also like to remind men who want to "wait" until their 50s and beyond... that is very unfair to children to have much older parents (*I say this to women too, btw) who cannot play and wrestle with them, keep up with them... parents who may become a burden to them when they are barely out of college.

So yes, there is a natural end to human fertility and that is a GOOD THING. We should accept and embrace that as part of the natural life cycle and NOT try to fight against it...

Thanks for your response.

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Oh and yes... 50+ is too old to have kids NOW. Your sperm is old and defective, you would father children with autism or birth defects (regardless of the age of the mother).

You cannot seriously want a toddler when you are 60, or a kid graduating high school when you are 80.

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I wonder is the reason why libertarians tend towards these fertility worries that they have a blind spot about how easily affordable it is to solve them with transfer payments because they're ideologically opposed to redistribution? I had an interesting conversation with Nolan Brown about that article where I pointed out she had gotten the cost of increasing fertility too high by an order of magnitude, to which reason responded by fixing the statistic but keeping the claim that it was unaffordable. If you're pro-welfare state on the other hand all these pro-natalist policies are just things you naturally support to improve people's lives regardless of the fertility impact.

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An alternative is that libertarians believe (quite reasonably) that even if the proper version was affordable in theory, there is no way we would implement the solution that would work in practice...

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That seems like just describing the same blind spot in a different way - there's nothing all that difficult to implement about throwing money and free services at children. We're already halfway to universal free childcare via the education system, no reason that can't be expanded a bit further. We already have a basic income for the elderly in the form of the social security system, no reason we can't have one for children.

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Seniors PAY INTO Social Security and Medicare for roughly 50 years. Children don't pay anything.

If you want a child allowance of some sort... it would require a big jump in taxes.

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Social security and Medicare are funded out of current tax revenues like anything else. They took some tax increases of their own to get started, but as we see now it was obviously affordable and worth it, and did not send us into an inflationary spiral. No reason we can't do the same for a child allowance that would cost half as much as social security, meaning a fraction of the cost of the two together.

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NO, they are NOT... they are each funded by their own separate income streams that are NOT part of "general tax revenues"... in fact, the government has borrowed many times from the SS "lock box" which is why it will GO BUST in 2035.

We REPAY that borrowing from general revenues, but that is only because we raided it in the first place.

You can certainly argue it is worthwhile to have SS and Medicare, but not that they are "obviously affordable". They are extremely expensive and getting more so, and SS has locked-in COLA increases... Medicare is staggering under the burden of A. not being able to negotiate on drug prices and B. having been expanded to include things like disabled people (and today, we consider people disabled for conditions that are minor and would have NEVER qualified in the past!).

And are you blind? deaf? dumb? WE ARE IN A GIANT INFLATIONARY SPIRAL RIGHT NOW!

SS takes 15% of income up to $130K... usually split between employer and employee (but if you are self employed, you pay ALL OF IT) and Medicare is 3%, also splits. That is a consider sum off the top of everyone's income and that's IN ADDITION to Federal, State and local taxes and sales taxes...

HALF as much for child allowance would be ANOTHER 7% on top of this.... that would be a terrible burden and remember it all falls on people making UNDER $130K....Even people eking out a living at $15K a year, must pay SS and Medicare tax....

I'm glad you are so high handed with OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY (OPM) but isn't that how we got into that mess in the first place?

A child allowance would reward exactly the wrong people for having more kids... right now, things like EITC and SNAP go right into the pockets of irresponsible welfare mothers, who spend it ON THEMSELVES and not their children...

So big nope on that. There is no more room in American budgets for more taxation -- NONE ZIP AND ZERO.

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Can you try to engage a little more politely if you want me to keep responding?

You quote me as saying "general tax revenues" but what I said is "current tax revenues". When social security was passed it was along with a payroll tax that covered the costs of the program in the way taxes generally do - revenue from each year paid costs for each year. That's as opposed to social security being some kind of savings program that people put money into and then withdraw that money out of.

Your concerns about social security and medicare costs rising in the future doesn't really have anything to do with the comparison of current social security costs to the costs of a child allowance - especially since our aging society and declining fertility mean those trends can be expected to go in opposite directions.

I don't know if a payroll tax as you describe is the ideal way of funding a child allowance, but clearly the US can afford it. We have a pretty low tax rate compared to other developed country - the US collects taxes equivalent to about 24% of GDP, compared to an OECD average of 34 percent, and countries with perfectly functional economies like France and Denmark at 45%. And remember, these are all poorer countries per capita than the US, though they don't necessarily look it given how the welfare states funded by that increased tax revenue result in them having far less extreme poverty.

https://www.taxpolicycenter.org/briefing-book/how-do-us-taxes-compare-internationally

The $500 billion a year child allowance that would according to Cato bring the US back up to replacement rate fertility only constitutes 2% of American GDP, meaning fully funding it with taxes would bring us up to 26% of GDP being collected in taxes, still well below average. To return to your social security discussion, presumably you can see from these numbers that another 1-2% increase in tax collection would be plenty to keep it funded for the foreseeable future. Far from a crisis.

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You make the libertarian point for them - we throw exorbitant amounts of money at the education system, to little benefit to children, instead of spending it efficiently; simply giving that money to parents might not be optimal but would be a drastic improvement

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@Thor: do you mean that instead of funding public schools... we should just give parents $10K a year (or whatever sum you think works) to send each child to a private school?

Obviously that has serious flaws. What if the irresponsible parent drinks away the money or spends it on crap? What if poor people decide it is worth having 10 kids to get $100K a year?

And as with most government transfers... what happens when private schools realize each kid is worth $10K a year, so they hike tuition... by $10K a year.

The private (non religious) schools in my area charge roughly $22,000 a year RIGHT NOW for students.... that excludes all but the wealthy and a tiny handful of poor kids on scholarships (for "racial balance").

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The benefit I was referencing there is that the education system provides the hugely valuable service for children and families of providing free childcare during the day. Educators don't really like to focus on that because they prefer to engage with a higher educational calling rather than identifying as running a glorified daycare, but it's big deal in terms of subsidizing the costs of childrearing.

Personally I think we'd be better off acknowledging that sort of babysitting role as an important official school function and deliberately working to expand it - more options for kids to hang out at school under some level of adult supervision outside of normal hours or even overnight, without necessarily worrying too much about the educational component.

I don't think replacing that kind of universal basic service with a payout with the expectation that parents will figure something out on the market is a more efficient way to go about things. Education is the kind of non-repeatable difficult to observe big purchase that people are worst at shopping for, there's not a lot to be gained from that sort of privatization when weighed against the loss of a simple, universal and accessible system.

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Being open about how schools are mostly day-care would be a good start, because honesty almost always is. That framing makes it apparent that for some families having a stay-at-home parent and cash in hand makes more sense than working a gruelling job that doesn't actually pay for the costs of child-minding.

Regarding all sorts of universal basic services, I'm in favour of both the public option and the private option existing, on the principle that competition helps put pressure on things to be good.

For Education specifically I think that regular (annual?) testing would be the solution, and that home and private schools should be held to the same standards as public ones - currently that would make those standards very low indeed, but I'd also endorse raising our standards.

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A possibility is that libertarians think that piling on disincentives to have children (as described in the essay) and then throwing in cash incentives to have children might result in very undesirable side effects without really solving the problem. For example, we periodically see cases of foster parents who take on more kids for extra money and wildly neglect the children (the disincentives don't count for much if you just totally do not care, apparently.) What happens if you offer money for having more kids across the board? Does that drive an increase in parenthood among those who are only doing it for the money and have no intention of raising the kids?

Not to mention issues of who actually gets to pocket the subsidies, as Zvi discussed in the essay.

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Yep. The right approach is not to throw cash at the problem, it is to remove the barriers requiring parents to throw so much cash and time at problems, which is more incentive compatible, cheaper, more efficient and other neat things like that. The cash is a last resort.

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Cash is literally the first resort. Cash is incredibly easy to implement. Name one "barrier" that is easier to solve then giving people cash?

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Liberal socialist countries like Sweden, Denmark, etc. and many in Eastern Europe offer HUGE cash incentives... child allowances... free day care... bonuses... long paid maternity AND paternity leaves....with the result they have some of the LOWEST birth rates in the world.

But in countries like Syria and Yemen, where I would assume parents get nothing and there is great poverty... parents routinely have 7-8 children or more. Also in poor African countries.

Clearly it isn't money that motivates.

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If there was enough of a cultural change that a large number of people were happy to have children they put very little money and effort into raising we wouldn't have this low fertility situation in the first place. To the extent that is an issue the solution is more focus on direct state provision of childcare - both as a child benefit that parents can't convert into cash, and as a safety net for children with neglectful parents.

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We already know that poor single moms on welfare will have more babies to get a larger welfare dole and more food stamps (which they sell for cash!)... and many of those children are badly neglected. I recommend to all here to read the NYT's amazing series "Dasani: The Invisible Child" from 2015 and the 2021 followup. The Coates family in the articles had TEN CHILDREN, living in the most dire poverty in filthy homeless shelters... and kept pumping 'em out. They got over $55,000 a year in benefits 10 years ago.

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Those are fascinating articles, but they neither contain the child / benefits numbers you give nor any indication the mother was having additional children to up her benefit income.

Links for those interested:

https://www.nytimes.com/projects/2013/invisible-child/index.html#/?chapt=1

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/28/magazine/dasani-invisible-child.html

The scenario is instead a mother with major problems of her own putting all of her time and energy into taking care of her family, and able to just barely do so with the help of some pretty scanty state benefits.

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Did you read the same series of articles I did? the parents (who were married, interestingly enough) had babies IN THE HOMELESS SHELTER... about the most awful place you can imagine. The children slept on feces-stained mattresses, there were rats, etc.

Do you think they had those babies because they loved kids, or thought "hey! this is a GREAT IDEA to have a 10th child!"?????

They did it to get more benefits. And you think the benefits were "scanty"? The husband pulled down something like $1400 for his two original kids, because their biological mother had died (SS Survivor benefits) and ON TOP OF THAT, they got welfare, food stamps, Medicaid ($$$), WIC and other stuff (free phones, free bus passes) AND lived 3 years in a shelter designed to house families for no more than 12 weeks...

Their yearly "Take" was $55,000 which is more than many families EARN from two jobs...

The mother was on drugs and slept all day, resulting in Dasani being "parentified" -- she had to take care of her younger siblings because MOM WOULDN'T DO IT, she was passed out cold on drugs. Dad also did drugs! Dad STOLE Dasani's money from a gymnastic team!

Every major problem that Chanel Coates (mother) had was of her own making. And the couple refused time and time again to get jobs of any kind... the father (Supreme) was a licensed barber who just preferred to do drugs, father more children and not work.

You should be ashamed for making excuses for these awful, awful people who were destroying the lives of TEN CHILDREN... TEN!!! you don't have 10 children in the 21st century if you have any common sense, decency or love any of them... you do it to get a steady stream of welfare, get out of having to work and dump all your responsibilities on the state....

BTW: Andrea Elliot, the author spun both articles plus more material into a BOOK... I suggest you read that too ... I may have taken some details out of the book vs. the articles.

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My assumption for such dissolute people having so many children would be that they're just not using birth control, as opposed to some calculation that they'll come out ahead post-benefits from having an additional child. I guess having those benefits might make them more willing to take the risk of having unprotected sex, but if these were the sort of people able to effectively make that kind of calculation they probably wouldn't be in this situation in the first place. $55k if that number is accurate does not seem very high at all with that number of children - only about $5k each, nowhere near the cost of caring for a child. If someone has a ton of children, the small benefits from each start to add up. Maybe there could be some kind of requirement to get sterilized after a certain number of children in order to continue receiving benefits? But that's both a potential human rights issue and kind of counterproductive in the fertility shortfall scenario we're discussing here.

I think you're letting your rage at these parents get in the way of thinking clearly about the policy issues.

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Consider, Big Worker, that the two people (who were married, contrary to the usual stereotype of the unwed welfare mom!) involved here -- Supreme and Chantal Coates -- were on Medicaid most of their adult lives... they had 100% FREE birth control of any type they wished, including sterilization.

BTW: the father Supreme had two OTHER children (besides the 10 in the article) who lived with his ex wife.

I don't know if folks like this really THINK IT THROUGH, and think "yup, that 10th child will make me a bundle of money!" -- I agree, they are lazy & shiftless, and probably don't plan well in advance (and using contraception requires planning, and is bothersome)... but I think once they DO find out they are expecting... instead of an abortion or adoption (given they are in a filthy, horrifying homeless shelter with RATS)... they DO think "well, that's another $400 a month in benefits! and we can spend it on drugs!"

Because that is indeed what they did. They did drugs and let their children go hungry and sleep on feces-stained mattresses.

BTW: that number of $55,000 is from 2013 when the original article was published.

$5000 a year would be around what most women would get in the form of child support for one child, based on an ex husband earning the average household income. Also: the cost of ONE child is more than multiples.

Remember the Coates's did not pay rent or utilities... did not pay taxes... had no bills of any kind. How much would you give a family with 10 children? at what point is it counterproductive, as the parents see no need to EVER work and they get used to be supported in a middle class lifestyle?

It would be highly illegal to COMPEL anyone to be sterilized, not mention they are black and the history of social service agencies sterilizing black women is deeply problematic.

What you could do is permanently end custody... both parents lost custody from time to time, but always got it back. I believe all 10 children would do better in a well-run orphanage (on the model of the superb Milton Hershey School). Their parents are a clear & present danger to them.

I think it is 100% important, positive and good to feel RAGE at parents who abuse 10-12 children while doing drugs and stealing the children's money... and ensuring the children grow up to have blighted lives.

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Why would you want to do transfer payments before just getting out of the way though? Just Social Security and Medicare taxes gives a lot of money to work with. Let's say you make SS taxes refundable for the first 5 years of raising a child. That's up to $60k per parent per child and that's just on the employee side. If you don't want to make it that much more lucrative for high earning parents, just make it a $7,500 credit against Social Security. Allow it to apply to the employer side also if you want to make the full credit available to lower earners. Allow it to be carried forward for up to five years if you want to help lower earners that have multiple children close together. That would go a long way towards the cost of child care early on and doesn't do anything other than acknowledge that the government shouldn't tax the "assets" that are being created to pay for it's ponzi scheme like retirement benefits.

You make federal money for public school a voucher, and put in some sort of federal incentive to make state money available to the pupil rather than to a particular school, and you immediately reduce a ton of the pressure parents have to bid into housing in good school districts. Doesn't completely eliminate it, but it helps and doesn't cost the federal government anything on net.

You cover 60-75% of the cost of child care until school age and then provide some help with the cost of private school (or home school) beyond that, and you have greatly reduced if not eliminated the biggest obstacles to having more children without having to transfer any money other than what is already being spent.

And I would also disagree that it's "easily affordable" with just transfer payments. Just transferring cash creates huge incentive problems. Anything that would move the needle for middle class and upper class taxpayers would generate way too much response from non-working mothers.

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It seems like all of your proposals are just much more complicated ways of doing transfer payments, combined with some unrelated privatization proposals. Why not just give people money rather than these schemes for doing so in the form of a tax credit or education vouchers?

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For one, the majority of the proposal is not transfer payments. Just as a matter of principal, I'd rather let people keep money they earn before handing out payments of other people's money.

Two, if you want to call vouchers transfer payments, it doesn't increase spending. It's spending money we are already spending and spending it on the same purpose, just spending it more efficiently.

Third, as mentioned, it doesn't create perverse incentives the way transfers do. Any transfer payment of a sufficient size that it that moves the needle for middle class or upper income taxpayers would be attractive to non-working people as a way to actually make money. I know that probably seems insane to most people that would be reading this, and some might be sheltered enough to think that there's no way a significant number of people would have a multiple kids just to pull in $20k a year in transfer payments, but it would happen. The proposals I mentioned would only help people that have at least one parent working full time and would mostly be attractive to people that are already doing the things that would indicate they would be good candidates for parenthood.

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Sorry had to go back and reread your school voucher bit. I don't think that makes sense - you're describing associating federal and state money with a pupil rather than with schools as a way to reduce the incentive of parents to live in good school districts, but of course the differences in school quality and funding are not based on some districts getting disproportionate access to federal or state money. It's local school funding being based on property taxes that differ hugely between different areas that produces those resource gaps. I assume what you're getting at is that people could use these vouchers for non-public schools, with the result being to defund the public education system in favor of private alternatives? Not something I'd think would improve the birth rate.

You're reinforcing my thought that libertarians have trouble with this policy area because of your aversion to transfers. You're just throwing around unrelated privatization proposals and finding ways to limit the redistributive effect of transfers that would come at the cost of reducing their effectiveness at boosting fertility.

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Oct 24, 2023·edited Oct 24, 2023

One of the biggest costs of being a parent is primary and secondary education, either through increased housing costs to be in a good school district or to pay for private school. That increased cost of housing is not driven by property taxes; it's driven by competition to get in a good school district.

If some of that federal and state money already being spent was tied to the pupil, it would free parents to live in more affordable places and/or to live closer to work despite it being in a bad school district. Where I live, an equivalent 3/2, 1800-2400 sq ft house can be double the price depending on whether it's in a good school district or an ok school district. If you could give them access to a good school (which could still be the public school in the more expensive neighborhood), that would take away a huge burden of raising kids without meaningfully increasing the amount of government money spent, (except that you'd have some people getting money that currently are paying taxes and fully paying for primary and secondary education).

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The property tax issue is that the higher property taxes in richer areas provide more resources for the schools in those areas.

It now seems like your proposal is less to do with federal / state funding, which is already reasonably proportionate to student numbers, and more to do with letting students choose between the different schools in their area rather than be assigned to one based on where they live? That's already pretty common, with the limit being that the 'good schools' tend to fill up first with the locals who have first dibs and then with kids coming from other areas, leaving most still reliant on their local school where they have a guaranteed spot. Of course you can stop giving locals first dibs in order to further reduce how significant home location is in what school you end up at, but that leads to its organizational problems (how do you do the bussing for example?) while still not quite eliminating the connection between where someone lives and what schools they have access to.

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@Johnson85: that is DUMB... school is free K-12. Nobody "has to" pay for private school, it is almost 100% pure snobbery.

"Good school districts" are made by good and stable parents, who are married and have jobs... and pass on good values to their children. They do not have to be "rich" or exclusive!

You talk as if letting people have vouchers... would result in millions of households moving to poor, rundown inner city slums. That is so bizarrely untrue, I don't even know where to begin.

But I can tell you that SINGLE NEVER MARRIED homebuyers... even those who have no intention of having ANY children... still care very deeply about living in nice neighborhoods with low crime, and lots of amenities, convenient to jobs and shopping!!!

You clearly have no idea why people buy homes, or why they choose Area A vs. Area B.... it isn't all about children.

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That is a common mistaken belief... that schools in bad neighborhoods have less money (due to lower property tax). It was true 50 years ago, but DEFINITELY not true anymore or for the last 30+ years.

States and the Federal government "top off" poor districts so on average, they spend MORE PER PUPIL than rich districts. Newark and Camden NJ spend $35K+ per pupil, with disastrously bad results. While plenty of thriving schools districts in other states spend $16K and get better results. (Greedy teacher unions grabbing most of the money is a HUGE factor.)

More money will not solve this problem. We have proven that beyond all argument.

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Are you nuts? do you think there is some giant slush fund of SS and Medicare you can just "tap into"? THOSE PROGRAMS ARE GOING BROKE!!! they being trounced with the boomers who are all retiring very rapidly now (and COVID sped it up considerably)... Medicare is already in the red. SS will not be able to pay full benefits by 2035.

THERE IS NO GIANT PILE OF MONEY you can just give away to people. Also you would be giving money both to rich people (who don't need it) and incentivizing poor unwed mothers to have more babies on welfare.

Surely you are AWARE that teacher unions and most liberals violently oppose school vouchers, and they do not address this problem in the least... they won't put a kid living in poverty into a public school in the highest income bracket suburb... it is too far away and there isn't enough space. At the most, they put that kid into a charter school in a bad neighborhood.

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Those programs aren't going broke. They are broke. And I'm not suggesting taking from some pot of money. I'm suggesting letting parents keep more of the money they earn rather than taking it to give to old people who may or may not be richer than the working parents.

And the point of vouchers is not to get kids into the public school in the highest income bracket suburb. The main point is to let kids escape from bad schools even if their parents have limited income. And in the context of this discussion, the point is to reduce one of the biggest financial burdens of parenthood so it doesn't feel like quite the financial sacrifice to people to have multiple kids.

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UH... yeah, actually they are going broke. Look it up. This is not just my opinion... it is well documented. Medicare is already running in the red and SS will not be able to fund benefits in about 12 years. They were not fully prepared (despite tons of advance notice) of the HUGE influx of boomers into each program. And of course, that was sped up considerably by COVID. I myself lost my job during COVID, meaning my health insurance, which meant I had to start SS and Medicare benefits earlier than I had planned to do. I was far from alone.

SS and Medicare are already income restricted, in the sense there is a CAP for SS (at $130K, which is hardly millionaire territory today in big cities) and Medicare has surcharges for wealthier people. Are you seriously arguing AGAINST those programs? good luck, sir. They are the well known "third rail" of politics.

Why??? because your kids will grow up and manage on their own ... but everyone gets old. I was a kid once. Now I am old and on SS/Medicare. Cut those benefits and it will bite you in the ass when YOU RETIRE.

We already spend MORE than any other nation on education (per child)... something like $22K... with absolutely terrible results, due to powerful teacher unions. Throwing more money at this won't help. It was tried for decades.

You cannot escape bad schools, because there simply are not enough "good schools" to go around... 100% of kids in bad districts would want to go to the good schools, and swamp them. NOBODY wants to go to bad schools. So they would empty out and collapse. I promise you the powerful teacher unions will NEVER EVER EVER permit that.

The biggest opportunity for change is/was the Charter School system, which is PUBLIC and cannot discriminate... is FREE... and beloved by parents. They serve mostly under-served populations of black and hispanic kids in urban areas.

The problem with your "theory" is that poor people, minorities, illegal immigrants... all have large families. The burdens of education or costs do not stop them in the least from having kids.

The people who DO NOT have children are overwhelmingly the wealthy, educated, prosperous and fully capable folks who just prefer to travel or buy stuff, who care about luxuries and showing off to friends/neighbors... the YUPPIES and DINKs (double income, NO KIDS!!!)... they are the ones not having children.

Here is an example from my own extended family: my husband was raised Polish Catholic. Parents married at 19, had six kids. All six kids grew up, got married... and each one had only TWO children. So 12 grandkids. Today they are all adults ages 35-45 or so. Of the 12, only 5 had children at all and 4 had one kid each. One granddaughter has two children; she is the outlier!

So it went from 6 kids in the 1950s (and I assure you, the in-laws were POOR and scraped by) to 2 kids each in the 80s (by now, everyone was relatively middle class) to half that many in the third generation, with fully 7 grandchildren NOT HAVING ANY CHILDREN AT ALL BY CHOICE. They are mostly all married, only one "singleton" in that bunch. None of the seven HAVE or WANT children.

And we have asked, and the answer is this: "we would rather spend our money on ourselves". Oh and all of them have at least some college, a few have degrees and one has a graduate degree. They are all quite successful and out earn their parents. All but one owns their own home, in good areas. AND THEY DO NOT WANT CHILDREN because they want to travel, shop, eat out and buy more stuff.

There is no amount of "government checks" you could give them, that would make them want to have a child..."too much work"... "would tie us down"... etc.

This is a fact, Jack.

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Fertility issues are _not_ easily affordable with transfer payments. The most generous European welfare programs _maybe_ manage to squeeze out an additional 0.1-0.2 of TFR. Targeted pro-natalist policies such as the trumpeted (in certain circles) Orban's/Fidesz ones have no noticeable effect. Hungarian TFR has been moving in line with its neighboring CEE countries and is even lower than e.g. Czech Republic's. What successful examples of solving fertility worries with transfer payments do you have in mind?

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I was specifically referencing the numbers from Cato that are discussed in this post, which they claim imply transfer payments are too expensive, but which actually show them to be easily affordable. I assume we can agree Cato would if anything have a tendency to overestimate rather than underestimate the costs.

Cato estimates about $500k in costs per added birth, which comes out to $250 billion per 0.2 boost in TFR in the US. Based on that, even a naturally occurring birthrate of 0 could be brought up to 2 with $2.5 trillion in spending out of the $25 trillion American economy. Obviously a hefty bill - 10% of GDP, but perfectly doable if the other option were extinction after one generation. The actual situation is far less dire, and correspondingly far less expensive to deal with. Current US TFR is about 1.66, so spending $500 billion a year to raise it by 0.4 would bring it to a nice sustainable 2.06. Compare that to the $1.1 trillion annual cost of social security or $800 billion on the military.

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I see what you mean, but that's all assuming numbers cited by Cato make sense, and I'm far from convinced that they do. Child-rearing in modern Western countries is a red queen race married to a zero sum game. Dumping more money into it will to first order simply make everything child-related (such as housing and education) more expensive for everyone. How much more would people be willing to pay for that home in a good school district with additional $500k in the till? How much more for fabulous gender reveal parties and baby Einstein courses? How much higher will costs of college go? You can see how this goes by the example of NYC, where there are tens if not hundreds of thousands of families with that kind of money. Any fertility increases will come out only in second order.

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The attitude you're taking here is what I was originally referencing above in terms of libertarians having a tough time engaging with transfer payment based solutions. Sure an increase in parental income would cause demand and thus prices for some items to go up, but soon enough the economy would respond to that demand and the resulting prices wouldn't be nearly enough to capture the full income increase. Are prices for all old people related goods out of control because of social security transfers, which add up to double what these fertility transfer payments would require?

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You are making this mistake because you are thinking about goods ("items") rather than services. Consumer goods are cheap because you can turn them out on demand and scale out production. Services are expensive because they are fundamentally packaged attention-hours of high-IQ (medicine, law) or at least put-together people (childcare) and/or because their worth derives from exclusivity (education at top colleges). American medicine is notoriously expensive: it expands to consume all money, including social security transfers, which is poured into it. Part of why good K-12 schools are good is because high-IQ parents devote their attention-hours to them and to the children who go there, and that makes them expensive, whether you pay for them out of pocket, out of your property taxes, or out of your time on this green earth. Housing is so expensive not so much because the physical house ("item") is expensive, but because of location, and location is valuable by itself (scenic, lakeside etc., which they famously aren't making more of) and even more because of who your neighbors are (and are not). You cannot turn out well-adjusted, polite neighbors with well-behaved children on an assembly line. You can only move to where they live. Housing is thus priced relative to the absolute maximum people can afford to pay to give their children a leg up in life and avoid the dreaded downward mobility, rather than according to some idea of 'fair price'.

ETA: I should add that Cato report's sections on housing and education almost completely miss the point. Zoning regulations and school district catchment rules in America have a large support (I wouldn't call them popular) because they allow less dysfunctional people to use the price mechanism to exclude more dysfunctional people from their set of potential neighbors and children's peer group. In countries where the prevailing culture is less shy about imposing standards of behavior and punishing violations, such as Japan, this is not necessary and accordingly there is no American-style zoning. School vouchers and school choice, one of American libertarians' favorite hobby horses and naturally mentioned in the Cato report, is a tool to allow parents to self-segregate, a lesser evil when there is zero prospect of altering the legal and cultural landscape which creates the demand for it.

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Okay, are prices for old people related services out of control as a result of social security? I think the answer being "no" is as clear there as it is for goods.

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A few things

1) China - If there really is a social credit system in China, giving people more credit for having more kids can be really effective. If social status is a number and a central commitee controls that number and the institutional response to it then policies can be very effective. Yes this is a bit evil, but making implicit things explicit usually reduces evil. Like we already have social credit it's just obtuse to earn and hard to measure, but no less oppressive. How many hours did you spend on extra curciluars to increase your social credit score as measured by the Havard central committee. Same fucking thing.

2) You are right about Simon and Malcom, too much leakage won't work.

3) I think we are close enough to replacement rate that we don't yet need extreme policies. Lots we can do on the margin. I'd focus, on 1) making housing affordable (that doesn't work in Japan, but might here), 2)Targeted policies to reducing the age of first child in married couples. 3) repealing stupid policies like car seats, day care provider certifications that make having kids expensive. 4) and the big one, making life less competitive for parents,

How do we make life feel less competitive. I have a number of ideas

1) ban college admission that is not based on test scores, a kid joining a club or doing sports, or anything that involves a parents time is a policy failure. Kids should work and contribute.

2) Colleges can't control their own admission, there is a test with a wide bar, schools are divided by wide bar, so 1500 or higher can go to these 10 schools, choosen by lottery, 1499-1400 or these 25 schools, again by lottery, so on and so forth. Unless you are on the border between those wide bars studying doesn't make sense.

3) We need schools run by conservative values. That means disapline, tracking, competition. Even bad schools can have 1 or 2 good classes. Disruptive kids need to be vanquished, moved to a warehouse, given the ability to move out of the warehouse, but it's much more important every school is well run, than people have choice. Choice is time, it's another lag on parents. Disruption also happens on the margin, lots of kids will not be disruptive if there are real consequences and no disruptive role models. That means the Bukele option for bad schools, a onetime iliberal policy leads to a more liberal world.

Finally on the womb stuff, one thing that really interests me about that is we'll eliminate congenital low fertility by avoiding having gay children being born. Just like we avoid down syndrome babies today. Since we know the amount of hormones in the womb affects sexuality, we can use this tech to eliminate the chance a child is gay. That's going to be an interesting trade off for social conservatives who think this tech is bad.

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It's genuinely reassuring to know that someone's keeping their eye on the ball here. Thanks, Zvi.

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I just want to footstomp the fact that it's essentially impossible to realize how much the average 30-something in my circles is constantly worried. COVID, climate change, AI killing us all, sure. But even more than that, it's job loss, housing costs, rising gun crime in DC.

We raised a generation on precarity, and we're shocked about the result, apparently.

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Has anyone bothered asking people of family-having age why they choose the family planning strategies they do, and what factors if any are blocking them from meeting those goals?

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None of the so-called experts do this... but I do.

So I can tell you that a very big reason is that people are now far more materialistic than in the past. They want, even demand things that our parents never dreamed of... 3 cars... a 4 bedroom house with 2.5 bathrooms... 2 fancy vacations every year... premium cable, the latest iPhone... to eat out 5 times a week.

Unless you are quite wealthy, those things are incompatible with having a lot of kids. Heck, even ONE kid would upset that apple cart!

In my parents generation (WWII)... if you raised your kids decently, had them graduate high school and get regular medical checkups... you did your best and were a good parent.

Today it is 1000x worse... you have to jump through so many hoops! the perfect schools, the perfect sports and extra curriculars.... schooling isn't done with high school, your precious snowflake must attend Ivy League schools for undergrad and grad degrees and that means they are not out until their mid 20s...then need assistance with cars, apartments, downpayments on houses, a luxe wedding if they marry....

We've raised the bar so high, that a lot of young people look at it and say....uh-uh. I want to spend my money on MYSELF... party, vacation, buy nice stuff. I don't want 25+ years of spending it on a kid. Let alone 3-4 kids.

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It's definitely amazing how we've managed to create so many neurotics. Particularly w/r/t climate change, it's incredibly sad that so many people are anxious about it when the people that are convincing them to be anxious are flying around on airliners (if not private jets), consuming tons and creating tons of CO2, and generally being unaffected by it. It's just a little virtue signaling on their part to make themselves feel good and/or make a buck rent seeking, and gullible, more ethical people are letting it seriously and negatively impact their life.

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Babies and children are a pain in the ass (I'll grant they get better as they grow older). If we had robo-nannies and cheap food, I'd consider it. But as it stands, I'm fine letting some else win the pointless Darwinian competition and have to change shitty diapers.

Inclusive fitness is sufficient for me. Not to mention not having the guilt of bringing another soul into this thresher.

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The whole structure of building a family in China is so alien to me. You gotta pay the bride price, plus you need to make sure one of the pair has a good hukou, plus you need to start saving to pay for a house for them since newlyweds can't afford their own, plus you have to navigate the politics of receiving a house from your parents/in-laws, plus only half of all kids get to go to high school and then only half of high school grads get to go to college, so you need to make sure they get a good education, but you can't be too brazen about it because private tutoring is against the law, and on and on and on.

The Chinese Doomscroll substack has so many parenting posts that just make it obvious why their fertility dropped so hard. This FAQ from the author is probably the one that was the most consistently unbelievable to me: https://weibo.substack.com/p/040923-faq-answered

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> As commentors note, in the past we had very long work weeks and very high birth rates. My guess is that it is the combination of hours worked with huge expected time investments in childcare, and modern isolation of the nuclear family, and that this is indeed making this dynamic important, although one factor among many.

the increased availability of birth control (a very positive thing!) is likely a pretty big factor in declined fertility rates that I'm surprised to not see mentioned here. I think the interesting discussion to have is that, due to the increased availability of birth control, we've reduced the chances that children will be born to unprepared parents and consequently face benign neglect or worse. I think that's something that's missing in a lot of rationalist discussions around increasing fertility. Increasing fertility is really important, but the decline here also means that, proportionally, more children that grow up are healthy and loved and well educated and well prepared to become productive members in a society that they feel affinity towards. That's also a very important part of the puzzle of "sustaining a society across generations", and I worry that people who want to brute force increase TFR aren't thinking enough about these later steps.

(My own take as an ex-latchkey kid is that benign neglect is great, but I'm also aware of how many more worse dynamics there are if your parents weren't prepared for you or didn't want you.)

> Matt Palmer: We must do everything in our power to ensure that our friends have a relatively easy time having babies Bring babies to parties, normalize free range children, give a bunch of parents a night off at once by organizing group babysitting events Many unimplemented wins here.

This is a good take. There's actually been a lot of traction/discussion around stuff like this in women-dominated blogging circles, which are very removed from rationalist blogging circles so I'm not surprised that there's been no cross pollination, but, here are some examples:

https://annehelen.substack.com/p/how-to-show-up-for-your-friends-without

https://www.thecut.com/article/adult-friendships-vs-kids.html

https://www.thecut.com/2023/05/is-camel-mode-inevitable-for-parents.html

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There's got to be a balance between "benign neglect" (which I also favor) and what we might refer to as abandonment. It matters a lot where the kids are and what they can or cannot do in their downtime.

I wonder if part of a larger problem is the lack of kids in the middle to lower ranges - kids whose parents are less involved that help create spaces where unintended (by the parents) events occur. This could be the reduced drinking and sex in current younger generations. It could also be the reduced freedom and random exploration/unsupervised kid time. My generation didn't think there was anything odd with kids being gone all day during the summer and coming back for dinner. My parents wanted us and were highly involved (by the standards of the time). The culture of the time was more accepting of *all* kids being unsupervised more. If there are less uninvolved parents now, that moves the balance towards the highly involved, which makes unsupervised seem less and less okay, to the point where kids miss out on that when they totally could do it. I'm not saying five-year-olds going to the park alone, but certainly by 12-15 kids should be able to do a lot of things by themselves. As a parent, I know this is hard now. We live in a neighborhood with lots of kids, but almost never see them outside for unstructured play.

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One mild point of pushback here because I largely agree with you, but is 15 really a kid anymore?? Most 15-16 year olds I've met are fully capable of having adult-level discussions, although intellectual capabilities vary just like with older adults. Most men and women are done with puberty by 16-17, and have reached their adult height, but I've even heard people refer to college students who are 20 or 21 as "college kids", and I remember thinking that people used to get married and have kids at that age 50 years ago. One problem related to this about having large families of 4-5 kids if 40% of the population has zero, is that it's going to be extremely difficult to pull that off and get started in your early to mid 30's, because some women go through menopause as early as 40, and if you space births out by 2 years, you're talking over 10 years to have the family you want, except you'd run out of time long before that. The average age of marriage in the US is now around 29, and in Ireland it's 34. I personally think that's too old as a social norm to ever have above replacement fertility, for the reasons I described earlier, because if 40% of the population have zero or only have one child, the other 60% need to be having 3 or 4 at the very least.

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@John: good grief! no, most women go through menopause around age 51!!!! if you are menopausal (complete cessation of periods) at only 40.... that is PREMATURE OVARIAN FAILURE. No, it is not "normal".

However, what IS TRUE is that for most women... conceiving gets harder by your late 30s and is VERY difficult if not impossible by 40ish.

So if you marry at 29 and have your first baby at 34... you are looking at maybe 4 years in which to have anymore children. And we don't see 29 as late to marry for a woman! heck, not if you expect to graduate college PLUS a grad degree, PLUS work experience until you are established in a career!

We have shrunk the window considerably...in the 1950s, the average age for first marriage for women was 19!!! we lost a DECADE! (Men too, btw.)

SO let me tell you a story: my stepdaughter. I will call her Lydia here. She was a late bloomer, didn't graduate college until 34. In that time, she had many boyfriends and lived with 2 of them... roughly 4-5 years each. Lydia is a "looker", very tall, blonde and lovely. No problem attracting men!

Senior year of college -- age 33 -- she met Mr. Right. They dated for a year, then moved in together another year or so. Then he proposed. She is now 35! so what does she do? she has a LONG 18 month engagement, and a big fancy wedding. By the time of her wedding she is 37.

Of course, she decides to ...wait. Because what's the rush? being a newlywed is fun! and "everyone tells her" don't have kids too fast. She finally starts trying to get pregnant at 39... and to her shock... she can't. She ends up having IVF ($15K a pop)... 5 embryos, 3 are clunkers. They implant the two live ones. One is absorbed and disappears. The last one is our darling grandson.

But what an incredible long shot! she could easily not have had ANY pregnancy! she pushed it until the absolute stroke of midnight. And no time for any second child... Lydia is now 46.

And why? because she PROCRASTINATED. I swear if women could get pregnant easily at 55... many millions would literally put it off that long. Lydia enjoyed having a LONG, LONG, LONG adolesence... with all the fun times, vacations and travel that entailed... no responsibilities, etc. But it meant only having ONE child and frankly, she was darn close to having ZERO biological children.

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Oct 17, 2023·edited Oct 17, 2023

I'm gonna grab the third rail of Internet discourse with both hands, and ask: Are artificial wombs the solution to the abortion debate? If artificial wombs can be used to transplant a, say, 8-12 week old fetus, would laws absolutely prohibiting abortion but permitting completely free transfers (paid for by the state) to artificial wombs be palatable to both sides? In theory, it addresses both sides of the "women's bodily autonomy" vs "life of the child" debate. What am I missing?

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Well, no. My qualifications: father-of-5, European (we pretty much all are "pro-choice", if not Mennonite - or even those are, they just prefer a certain choice). That said: Condoms can fail, people are prone to miscalculate. And if it happens, you choose. And if you in one case decided: "Nope. No way. Not now." - then you f. do not want to hand your fertilised egg to a gov. agency to put it into an artificial womb. Pregnancy is no walk in the park. But thinking that it is the big reason why one/the couple aborts ... - omg, are you actually from another planet? Or under-age? - I assume you are not, but your train of thoughts derailed from the way how and why humans actually act. See, we could not have A BABY in say 2018. A big belly for some months or morning sickness was NOT the the issue. So we got the pills with Ulipristal­acetat next day. - 2021 we decided differently. No biggie. Having our kid in an orphanage or adopted by who-ever: NO. Go away. Leave people their most private decisions.

Hope, that helped to clarify the issue. (A few women give their baby after birth away - instead of killing it. Because a few humans seem to develop some kinda irrational emotion toward their offspring during pregnancy and birth, even if they did not wanted it/to. Unheard of in some circles.)

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The difficulties in going through pregnancy in particular and the bodily autonomy of the mother in general is the justification for it to be legal to terminate a pregnancy. That interest is balanced against the interest of society in protecting the unborn child. It's not a private decision when someone else's life hangs in the balance. Reasonable people can disagree how to resolve that conflict. But, absent those issues regarding the mother's body, the parent's preference for their child to be killed rather than adopted is and should be given no consideration at all, other than to recoil in horror at the inhumanity of someone who could consider such a choice.

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Abortion is murder of the most delicate, defenseless, and precious members of our species. They feel pain in the womb, have unique/distinct DNA apart from the mother, and are NOT part of the mother’s body.

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The main justification is that is not the gov. f. business to force citizens to having a kid or not havin one. The society - whenever you meet her, tell her - has no inherent right to punish a woman for not having a kid. -- Omm. -- Ok, the fertilized egg, later embryo resp. fetus can be assigned rights, too. As a potential person of sorts. As: the right to live. Thus the choice of potential mothers is often restricted to a reasonable term. Three months is considered okay-ish by most pro-choicers even. And may be qualified: "Go, get informed about available help and show a paper you did" in my country.

Again, if you personally feel you must threaten your fellow citizens with punishments if they choose to make choices with their life and the life of their unborns you personally do not approve of, though neither you nor any other fourth person is hurt (and society seems better of with less unplanned kids roaming the ghetto): That seems neither human nor serving the purpose:

People will try even harder to not get pregnant. The more people use super-safe IUDs - they last over a decade now - the less kids are born. The more guys do vasectomy, the less kids are born; the more women do tubal ligation, the less kids are born. Your Mission accomplished? My mission is more kids. One wants more kids: Go and f. multiply. I totally approve. But: Take our blastocyst to make a child this "society" then owns: Do not be surprised, if you get shot trying. And losing elections till your party drops the idea.

To answer your question: Artificial wombs may turn out one day to be an appealing solution for people who do WANT a child. They will hardly ever be appealing to most of those who do NOT at a given time want one. Forcing it on those will be abhorred my most of your fellow humans on this planet, even most Catholics. Humans are created like that, not my fault. Have a beautiful day and turn your considerable energy into helping people having kids. Build a house, rent it out cheaply to families. Praise awaits.

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Oct 29, 2023·edited Oct 30, 2023

>> face palm << .... condoms are for prevention of STDs. They are very low quality birth control, OF COURSE THEY FAIL!!!! that's why they are a terrible choice if you really REALLY do not want a baby!!!

HOW IS IT POSSIBLE in 2023 that adult men like yourself do not know this???

Also: you would rather kill your fetus, than let a loving family adopt them? and I seriously doubt there are orphanages in your country... there are NONE in the USA!!!

An unwanted newborn baby has THIRTY SIX (36!) waiting families who would literally give anything to adopt them....

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Yep, I like kids. :D If I REALLY did not want babies I would have had a vasectomy or sleep only with infertile women (resp. have them get an IUD installed before we upgrade from kissing). That's what they all do, right? - Dunno about the US, but I have visited an orphanage in Russia (Old Novgorod; nice one, nice kids). I doubt all kids with down-syndrome in the US live with their biological parents, nor all kids from drug-destroyed families with their grandaunts. From a friend I heard one jumps right to the top of the waiting list, if one is ready to adopt a downie (from China, at least). One may have to google for something else than "orphanage" in US (there is no "Waisenhaus" no more in Germany, neither; but are there places for kids without parents, who do not get adopted: Ja, absolut.).

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OK... but maybe you are kidding yourself? (Pun intended!)

There are legit ways to prevent pregnancy, but it STARTS when a man & women have a serious talk about BIRTH CONTROL before they have sex.

I am not sure how you identify "infertile women" before entering a relationship with them (or even just sleeping with them).... women post menopause? only women who have hysterectomies? If the woman is using BC, then the method is HER CHOICE ALONE... you cannot demand she get an IUD.

Women are all different in what they prefer and what their bodies will tolerate. IUDs are great, but not for EVERY WOMAN. Also: most people today move pretty fast from first date to first sex, and getting an IUD inserted requires an gynecologist, and appointments for that take an average of SIX WEEKS advance planning. Just sayin'.

This is, btw, how people get pregnant when they don't want to be. They can't plan in advance or tolerate even a few weeks of "postponing sex" to be safe. They want what they want when they want it. Mother Nature gets the last laugh!

Yes, Russia still has orphanages and probably other backwards countries... I was talking about the US, Europe, Canada, Australia, etc.

Down syndrome rates have dropped by an astonishing 90% since the advent (in the 80s) of amniocentesis testing for that genetic disorder.... so there are very few Down's kids today. (Lotsa autism though!)... I would say that most Down's kids DO live with their parents. They do not live in orphanages, that is for sure.

Actually an extremely high number of kids from drug-destroyed families DO live with their grandparents.

While some people will adopt Down's children... there are not many children up for adoption of ANY type in the US... not infants or even toddlers. There are SOME abused kids in foster care you might be able to adopt... but generally very troubled kids over age 10.

Adoptions from China ceased in the early 00s, so no... that is not where people adopt from today. It was a big thing in the 80s-90s! long over now. There was huge corruption in the system and anyways... China figured out they NEED those baby girls as they have a big population imbalance now!

After China, the go-to country for a long while was Guatemala (also very corrupt, selling babies for $$$) and before all of that, it was South Korea. Now it is places like Haiti and Africa.

I don't know how Germany handles this... you say it is not an orphanage... don't you have a foster care system? and Germany has one of the lowest fertility rates in all of the EU! despite offering women THREE FULL YEARS of maternity leave, plus free college and all kinds of child bonus money.

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a) Foster-care. Yep. Though in many versions, some putting the kid in a new family of paid "foster-parents" (yeah, while there are ppl who want to adopt - but then: a friend of ours wants to adopt - she is kinda crazy - and when I told her: "Become a foster-parent." she did not like the idea of it. - I would have swapped my parents for a gov.-foster-care-group gladly as a teen. (My parents were and are fine, but tell that to a teen).

b) I admit to my shame: I had a few first-night-stands. Without analyzing our blood for oral-contraceptives, not even STDs. Without filing forms of consent. Without serious discussion how we would name a kid. With a condom. And indeed, primarily to avoid a pregnancy. (At least, that was MY main worry.) Fun fact: A condom-fail not only raises the likelihood of fertilisation, but also of infection with a PTSD. I assume, we should really ban all condoms, as people can easily wait out the result of their tests, before they do the things mammals do on the discovery-channel.

c) Germany has a higher TFR than Italy or Spain. Not to speak of South-Korea. And even France and the US are below 2 nowadays. So we are all in the same boat. I recommend as a first step: less talk. more sex.

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condoms work very well as contraception when actually worn - most of the 'failures' are in the "intention to treat" sense where sex happens without condoms because they were left at home or you ran out etc., rather than condoms being properly worn and breaking anyway (use lube!)

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They work FAIR and are better than NOTHING... but far from ideal. Most people are not patient enough for them to work... no, it is not that they break. Modern condoms are insanely well made... there was a comedian years back who would stretch one OVER HIS HEAD and they never broke.

As you say... no condom works if you leave it at home, or don't put it on, or let it fall off, or you "stealth" (tell the woman you have it on, but sneak it off)... if you run out, so you have that 2nd or 3rd sex act without one (telling yourself that it can't be that risky).

Biggest reason though: if you use condoms, you must "pull out" immediately after ejaculation or the condom will fall off (often inside the woman) and all the contents spill out. This is probably THE most common condom failure and many people don't seem to know this. Also, some people have sex without the condom... then put it on "at the last moment"... this also does not work ("pre ejaculate").

Sorry to be so graphic, but this is why condoms are not a very good method of BC. They are a good method to prevent STDs, and should be used with new partners or anyone you don't know well.

In a long term relationship... condoms get old fast, and people resent the restrictions. Men often state that it feels like "showering in a rain coat" and reduces sensation.

Since it is WOMEN who bear the brunt of contraceptive failure... who get pregnant... who may need an abortion or who are left to raise an unplanned-for child... it is women who must be proactive about contraception. There 20 kinds of contraceptives today, including sterilization for both men & women... hormonal, non-hormonal, barrier... while every type is not right for every woman... there are enough choices that most women can find something they can live with.

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After modern medicine almost eliminated puerperal fever and similar complications, pregnancy and delivery are no big deal compared to how much effort children require after birth, and even more so given the prevailing ideas about child-rearing (it being held no longer acceptable, or legal in many places, to let children play etc. unsupervised).

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Oct 17, 2023·edited Oct 17, 2023

How many children do you have, Zvi?

Curious to hear from other commenters as well.

I have four (so far).

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author

I have three.

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Two. They’re great enough that we would ideally like a third, but at 43/38 it seems we might be turning out to be too old.

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Five. My youngest is 1. We are 52/35. My two oldest are adults, legally (Have other mothers, obviously). None of my wives worked after we married. - What can I say? I am a nerd who loves books (well, blogs). I dnf care for whatever status among non-readers I lack.

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Three here.

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We have three.

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My wife and I have six. In retrospect, it's somewhat odd that we both wanted so many kids, given that we didn't explicitly discuss it much, particularly early in our relationship. We both come from relatively large families (4 and 5 kids) and we're Catholic, so the culture lines up for a big family. But the extent of our discussion about how many kids to have was one brief conversation before we got engaged that we were both thinking 4-6 kids.

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One so far, she's only 6 months old. We're planning on having at least one more, and maybe a 3rd but definitely no more than 3

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Second on the way, and will probably stop there. Decision to have the second made substantially easier by my work's dramatically improved parental leave policies (year off with first six months paid for both mothers and fathers). I would in principle like to have 3-4, but a combination of health concerns with my wife in pregnancy, and *especially* housing and childcare costs make it unviable. My wife and I both make much more than average, we live in a small terraced house in an unfashionable part of London, but the housing market is just that crazy, and overly strict child:minder ratios means childcare can't *not* be expensive.

The social factors are secondary, but definitely come into play when thinking about time investment; there are just no packs of children around the way there were when I was young and unsupervised, such that now there's a very strong negative selection effect that almost the only kids (even teens!) out are from dysfunctional families...

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I think the Cato part largely hits everything I would suggest, although it does not seem to mention the sheer amount of education time (time spent, not actual education) investment in kids along with the competition to spend that time at specific institutions. There is a lot of unnecessary time spent running kids to X, Y or Z activity in part because we can't just let them play, and in part because if they don't play an instrument, make varsity in at least one sport, and volunteer since the age of 5 they will never make it into a top tier school. (Or something.) I think for many people that have actual hobbies and interests outside of their 8-5 job the prospect of becoming an unpaid Uber driver for their kids is a bit unappealing. That also plays into the fact that all that time in school keeps kids from becoming adults; I've had classes of college sophomores where the majority never had a job that wasn't an internship, and they weren't going to have one until after graduation at 22-24 years old. If we could get the butt in seat part of schooling done in ~75% of that time it would be a big deal, and that improvement seems pretty trivial to achieve considering how little high school and college grads actually retain.

With regards to banning children from public places (or private businesses) I am actually a little sympathetic in some cases, despite having three kids myself. I have seen some really awful behavior of children in stores, making a mess and wrecking the place even when their parent is right there to correct the behavior. Likewise unattended children steal or otherwise create a nuisance. Without social control, either through the parents not being too worthless to teach their children to behave or shoplifting kids getting in trouble with the law, banning kids seems like the next best solution. Now, I don't know what is going on in South Korea, but given the unwillingness to enforce behavioral standards (or laws) in the US, I would not be surprised or even particularly offended if a private store decided to ban children. Public libraries though, that's just dumb.

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So many things to comment on: a) US maternity death rate - very shocking, not very relevant

b) I want an old-fashioned house with ten old-fashioned nannies and an old-fashioned millionaire + update: her husband arrested for money laundering https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-10934703/Russian-woman-21-babies-Turkish-millionaire-devastated-arrest.html

a) Maternal mortality: In most of Europe it is below 10 in 100k births, thus the US was an outlier always, the spike is Corona-only hopefully. Newest numbers in EU are mostly still 2020, showing no rise yet and I do not expect much (except Italy, maybe). - The US numbers seem easily explained by access to docs/hospitals: If 5% of pregnant women in the US face hurdles to regular check-ups et al - maybe simply by living much further from the next hospital than anyone in West-Europe does, maybe *undocumented immigrant" or sth. their risk may rise from 5 in 100,000 up to a staggering 1% - i.e. 1000 in 100k. And thus "spoiling" the average. - This study shows some other factors that increase mortality risk: https://www.bmj.com/content/379/bmj-2022-070621

Tldr: Being under 20 or over 30 doubles the risk, being over 40 quadruples it. Being an immigrant raises it by about 50 % (except in rich Norway, where all get very fine support). "Cardiovascular diseases and suicides were leading causes of maternal deaths in each country". Obesity does not help, sure.

a) The Turkish husband and his wife (an ex-stripper from Georgia; seemingly now a millionaire, too) spent more than €168,000 on 22 surrogates between March 2020 and July 2021, and spends more than €90,000 a year on 16 live-in nannies. - So, around 8k for a surrogate mom and 7k a year for each live-in-nanny. They sure know how to get a sweet deal! He should swap his money laundering+bus company to an agency getting others such incredible deals ... . - Who needs artificial wombs then?! - Oh, "the couple set out to have 105 surrogate babies together. " - Singapore pay attention and the bills for your high achievers! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipl9tqyoS8o

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author

Yeah, someone explain to me how to get surrogates for 8k a pop, those are not the prices I have typically seen!

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Re maternal mortality: I would assume this is a product of “access to okay healthcare” and “fraction of mothers that are old or eg obese”.

Might explain why it’s more of an issue in the US and increases over time (obesity on the rise especially among less well-off, which in the US also have sub-optimal healthcare but also have an increasing fraction of pregnancies)

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Obviously. The huge hike during Covid has to be even worse “access to okay healthcare”, as nothing else changed that dramatically. Neiter obesity nor cesarians did sudenly reach much higher levels in those 2 years, right? - If even a very low percentage of pregnant women are much less likely to give birth in a hospital due to lockdowns/fear of infection/ sheer overload of medical services - this is enough to push very low AND kinda low numbers up by a lot. - In 2 years we will know if Europe fared better - and if the US-spike goes back to 2018 levels. I bet "Yes" for both.

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Do you think US women are giving birth at HOME? that is very rare here. These are ALL hospital births.

But poor, very obese women... minorities... some illegal... on drugs, drinking, smoking... don't want to show up for prenatal care as they would get lectured or even arrested for endangering their babies.

The problem is not US hospitals, which are pretty high standard nor US doctors who are among the very best in the world... it is a non-compliant population of poor, ignorant and self destructive residents here.

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Sure (or not). I tried to say that in the original comment: Births without medical assistance are MUCH less safe than with ( Jumping from 10 deaths in 100.000 birth to around 1% i.e. 1.000 deaths in 100.000. The 1% is for "on average healthy".) - I did and do assume the statistic to be for ALL births. I see no hint in the statistics that ONLY hospital births are counted. Even just by geography, I would expect higher numbers in the US (big country and - unlike Canada or Russia - not that near-exclusively concentrated in a few clusters). Sure, more perks for pregnant women/mothers would help. I am sure, the death rate for hospital births in the US is much closer to OECD-averages. 'Pre-natal care': not so much; it is surely a good thing, but one hardly dies(!) without. It's the birth, when things can go terribly wrong. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/maternal-mortality/2021/maternal-mortality-rates-2021.htm#:~:text=The%20maternal%20mortality%20rate%20for,20.1%20in%202019%20(Table).

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Mark: but are the DEATHS from births at HOME? because the women who give birth at home tend to be "crunchy granola" white liberal upper class... not poor women without adequate health care.

I've seen no evidence that home births... using a doula or midwife... are remarkably unsafe. No, I think if you talk to OB-GYNs or to labor/delivery nurses... you will see the death rate is from women who do not get prenatal care and who have a variety of co-morbid conditions (morbid obesity, smoking, alcoholism, drugs, etc.) and who show up IN LABOR at the hospital... then have poor outcomes. Add to that women who are VERY young... 11-15 years of age.... again, little or no prenatal care...AND women who are significantly older than the average (over 40)... and again, you have women with high risk pregnancies.

I am going to guess that the lowest risk nations, just don't routinely have 11 year olds giving birth. And I have a friend who is a social worker, who has told me that "we are no longer shocked at 11 yr old pregnant clients... people only get upset if the girl is TEN or younger."

I just see no evidence that reason for a higher maternal death rate in the US is due to a "lack of perks"... all poor women here would qualify for Medicaid, meaning 100% free health care during pregnancy, labor & delivery including "well baby care" after... to SNAP and WIC... WIC especially being nutrition for pregnant AND nursing mothers AND babies/children from birth to age 5, and includes formula and ONLY fresh healthy foods (junk food not permitted on WIC).

Actually: it is absolutely pre-natal care that matters. I do not believe it is hospital deliveries that "go wrong"... I believe things go wrong because the woman shows up with existing medical problems (extremely high blood pressure is a common one) due to little OR NO prenatal care. Many births in poor communities are to mothers who have been using recreational drugs or drinking during pregnancy... they avoid prenatal care because they could get lectured, nagged or even in legal trouble for their behavior.

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Much appreciated. You may very well be right and me very wrong, I just do not have the numbers (last time I heard, teen-pregnancies were down, though: "The adolescent pregnancy rate in the United States has declined considerably (by 51%), from a peak of 117 per 1,000 women aged 15–19 in 1990 to a 30-year low of 57 in 2010." ). I imagined a women on a farm in Iowa or in the Appalachians or - well, I am not an expert in the US, but there must be more people living more than 40 minutes from the next hospital than in central Europe. Or "unregistered immigrants" who shy away from less-than-absolutely-urgent visits of doctors/hospitals. And from urgents until too late. - Or poor-because-unsmart, too unsmart to know or navigate the welfare-system very well. Or not rich, but not poor enough. Or a combination of both. (Our German welfare is tricky, but the health-part is mostly very straightforward. And no woman needs to rush back to her job.) Math says: It takes only an extra 1% of moms without hospital care (resp. pre-birth-care) to double a 10 in 100k death rate to 20 - WITHOUT any decline in the quality of health-care for those who do access it. And during lockdown, the numbers of those who got less care (by deciding to stay away or being offered less access) must have gone up in the US. My impression from all the care my wife got before birth was: very little of it could have killed her, if she had missed it - as long as she went to hospital for birth. Which we did anyway. With me being tested daily for each visit. - Then again, that "very little" might raise death-rates, if missed. So: it might be many things that make US rates relatively high. The steep rise during lockdown, they explain less well!!! Thinking about it, I assume sth closer to your stance: "worse access to all the pre-birth care" sounds more likely than my "it's been more births outside hospitals". More numbers needed. ;)

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huge hike will also be covid deaths directly, I'm sure

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Maternal death rates in the US are complex... as well infant mortality. For starters, we measure it differently than Europe so direct comparisons are misleading.

However, you have to consider much older mothers are now the norm here... among some ethnic groups, morbid obesity is now the norm. Black women have a 72% obesity rate!

Many women, even with Medicaid or insurance, will refuse to see an OB-GYN and just "show up" in labor at the hospital... a disaster. Rates of things like high blood pressure in this group are sky high.

Many of these women smoke, drink and do drugs... which is why they won't go to prenatal care, for fear of being discovered. Or they have boyfriends who beat the crap out of them.

If you are European, you may not realize that the US is now 35% minorities, with 33 MILLION illegal aliens... all of whom get 100% free health care, including prenatal, labor & delivery... while middle class people must pay and pay, and get nothing.

Also Norway has $3 trillion yearly in North Sea oil revenues... plus very high taxation... for a mere 5 million residents who are ALL WHITE. They are not a good metric to compare to.

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Ctrl+F student loans 0/0

I mean I'd love to think about owning a home but I'm mostly tempted to not even start thinking with the level of loans I have hanging on.

Wife and I are comfortably at "are fine without kids, would roll with it if one happened but aren't going to try". I'm vaguely interested in the -idea- of having a family but it's definitely financial incentives pushing the balance away from it.

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I'm sorry if you're hearing this too late, but high student loans are often a choice. The value of a more expensive school (unless it's top tier) is very much not worth the difference in cost compared to a decent state school. Most employers have no idea the difference between the #12 school in your field verses the number #53 school. Often they have no idea the rankings of any schools. Relatively few jobs are so high level that they even care if you went to a #1-5 school. I would hope that someone who did go to such a school is able to get a job at a place that cares and pays enough to balance that out. For most of us, we can save a lot of money and be very much more price-sensitive to the colleges we choose.

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I think that it's important that I explain how completely useless your comment is. I have neither a superfluous degree nor went to a prestigious college. I have a doctorate in an extremely pro-social medical field. I went to a local college that is very much on the cheap side for my major and still have substantial student loans. Others in my field will have 2-3x or more in student loans from going to other not-exactly-Stanford colleges.

Any amount of "it was your choice" is useless bullshit. If nobody chooses medical degrees you get no healthcare.

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There are certainly degrees that have higher debt, of which doctors are clearly one. I still stand by what I said - "high student loans are often a choice." Not always, but often. I think it's very important to talk about the more standard cases, and encourage people to not consider 1) college to always be necessary, and 2) high debt a natural and concurrent requirement of going to college.

Doctors are in a weird place, and a bad place when it comes to any role that doesn't pay particularly high wages. They are also a tiny minority when it comes to people with college debt.

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Honestly SC Pantera, I have no idea what a "pro social medical field" is... are you a doctor? nurse? psychologist?

Was your degree worth not having kids?

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Agree. There are a number of issues depressing fertility, including:

-Exponentially rising student loan debt

-Limited access to childcare (Zvi talks about this)

-Stagnant wages relative to inflation

-General depression over climate change and the state of the economy (Zvi talks about this)

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Most people I know in the NYC suburbs who have large families almost always live near their parents, which means Grandma and Grandpa can look after the kids, which eliminates 30,000 to $40,000/yr in childcare costs. The extended family was essentially the default option for everyone until very recently, and for certain ethnic groups like Italian-Americans or Hispanic Americans still is. Student loan debt imo could be dealt with by income based repayment plans, and/or eliminating undergraduate majors that have a poor return on investment, or aren't a stepping stone to graduate school, where higher debt is manageable with higher incomes. I like French literature too( Balzac is great!!) but I don't think anyone should burden themselves with tens of thousands of dollars of debt for a bachelor's degree

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It's really hard to tell sometimes which majors won't lead to ROI; all the ultracompetent computer science people on here forget that. (Though they have their own problems from time to time I hear). This is in fact one of the reasons the humanities are dying, but a business degree can still screw you if you graduate at the wrong time. I get the whole libertarian 'you made your own choices' thing and the desire to punish the universities (which really did turn into leftist indoctrination centers), but I'd prefer some idea like putting them on the hook for the loans or failure to find jobs of graduates--they're the ones profiting from the rising tuition after all (if only in the form of administrative bloat).

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I think one of the dynamics that's evolved over time is that some majors are clearly vocational training(nursing for instance) but without the traditional stigma of vocational training with the expectation from students that a job will be forthcoming soon after graduation, and other majors like English or Sociology, that while they may aspire to teach critical thinking skills, dont have a clear career path for students. I still think business majors do okay, because it's such a broad major that it's applicable to any organization or company where you're selling or buying products or human capital(law, healthcare, retail, etc)and the economy is usually cyclical, so even if your dreams of making x amount of dollars have to be deferred for a little while, you'll probably be alright in due time. I still find the rhetoric of "just learn to code!!" by computer science majors to be idiotic, because oversaturation in the field would ultimately decrease wages for new grads, similar to what happened to pharmacy grads, and secondly not everyone can sit at a computer for hours and write lines upon lines of computer code, without being bored out of their minds. Anyone who can do that imo has a different personality and psychological makeup, which may be why the field attracts so many people who have high functioning autism or Aspergers, who may be great with computers, but would struggle tremendously with the social aspects of psychology, nursing or social work. It's a self-selection effect, but instead it gets turned around as "we're so much smarter than e.o else and e.o who dosen't major in this is dumb" which I guess isn't surprising coming from a group that's more likely to lack self awareness or metacognition. Elon is like the poster child for people like this.

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Oct 23, 2023·edited Oct 23, 2023

I agree with all of this. No, really; I wound up giving more or less exactly this lecture to CS people I was arguing with online a few years ago.

But do you really think 20-year-olds are smart enough to make those kinds of decisions?

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Some of them are but I think some general guidelines are helpful for EVERYONE : try to go to school in state in the US if you're a student because you'll save on tuition, if the options in state are slim or not academically rigorous enough, look for private colleges or state schools out of state that will give merit aid, and set a firm budget between students and parents of what everyone is willing to spend. This is really more a problem of middle class and upper middle class families, because upper class families, who make upwards of $500,000 a year can pay full price, and students from poorer families with high grades will end up getting need based aid anyways, even at the Ivies, which don't give merit aid. Those schools have done a phenomenal job marketing themselves to impressionable young people, that they have the secret sauce to give people the ticket to the good life, but in reality they're simply benefiting from admissions standards and receiving people who are already talented and would do well wherever they went. I really don't think that Harvard or Yale gives much value-added to individual students, beyond what UCLA, UNC, or any other state flagship could do, but they cost 4 or 5 times what a state school would. A lot of students get too focused on their dream school or needing to go a certain school, but nobody will care 10 or 20 years from now where you went to school but whether you have the degree, employment history, or qualifications for the job.

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OK, sounds good on paper and in the US...

Now explain why Sweden and Denmark have very low birth rates, along with pretty much all of the EU... plus South Korea and Japan... when they have ZERO student debts, free college, free or heavily subsidized day care, high wages and solid economies??? and get long paid maternity leave for both parents?

EXPLAIN THIS!!!!

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That's a good point. I've thought it over, and I have another explanation, but you'll like it even less. ;)

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I note that absurd student loans are a specifically American issue and low and declining fertility is much more widespread. European states with fully state-funded universities still have low fertility.

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What we really need is exponential rewards for having more children:

- $1k for the first kid

- $2k for the second

...

- $512k for the tenth child

Obviously you'd need some sort of a verification system to ensure people can't game the payouts too easily but overall the problem is that we don't provide huge payouts to people who make the sacrifices in order to have a large family.

The best part is that issuing debt for the purposes of funding this program would be a no brainer as you'd be generating millions of additional future taxpayers, so the program should be sustainable in nations that aren't suffering too much of a brain drain. Definitely doable in the US, Japan or Germany.

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So I would get 16 k for my fifth instead of the 250*12*18=54 k € I get in 'Kindergeld' alone right now? (plus Elterngeld+ healthcare +other stuff on top + cheap kindergarten and "free" daycare aka school) The first eight just slogging thru' because all eyes set to the ninth when your system finally starts being attractive? Well, I better start importing some extra-mothers to get there more quickly. Also, Feodor's wife alone would break the budget: 590.295.810.358.705.651.712 $ - one more would cost a sextillion. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feodor_Vassilyev

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:-) Yes, we obviously should calculate this per-woman, not per-family. And there should be a cap of $512k to avoid bankrupting the nation.

But the idea is that - yes, you'd basically be incentivized to power through the challenges of the first six kids before the really big payoffs start coming through. I suspect that the idea of being able to become rich by having 10 kids will be tempting enough to a large portion of the population, though most would give up before reaching the goal and settle on a smaller number of children.

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Nobody says the base for the exponentiation has to be 2, or that you have to start at 1K. You could fiddle with it to get the results you want.

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No one except the comment I commented on. Obviously a sub-optimal idea. That said: Putin offered higher money for the 2nd child (Most Russian women have ONE - when they are young and the granny not to old to help - and then are done. More than double, if I remember correctly. - Germany used to raise the handout by ca. 10% for up to the fourth kid, now it is 250/mthl for each - otoh: The MOST expensive kid - by far - is the first one. Not just because inexperienced parents overspend, but because it mostly buries any lofty career-hopes for the mother.

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The idea of the increasing benefits for more kids I think is pretty sound. Lots of people seem to want at least one kid, but hold off on additional for career/money reasons. People who don't want any kids don't seem to think of it in purely financial terms, so that first kid doesn't seem to matter as much.

I would go with a higher first kid subsidy and also have a cap on the number of subsidized kids (maybe at 6? maybe diminishing subsidies for a few kids before going to zero). My thinking there is that we would much rather have a society where lots of people have kids, than a society where lots of people don't and the ones that do have huge numbers. It also helps with "baby factory" types situations where someone keeps having kids for the money - especially abusive/neglect situations.

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Oct 17, 2023·edited Oct 17, 2023

Anecdatum: a couple, good friends of mine, live in Seattle with 2 tech incomes and 2 young kids. They have extended family in the area and the pandemic was a happy time for them. Recently they had to find a new house due to a combination of return-to-office policy impacting commutes and childcare (you can probably guess which company), wanting a good elementary school, and a nanny demanding they get a 4th bedroom to make kid supervision easier (no, I don't understand that part either). This had a major impact on their finances because of the difficulty satisfying the required parameters (size and location, and they eventually compromised on school quality).

Work from home is potentially a big deal for fertility if it keeps enough traction going forward. Aside from cultural/social desirability there's practically no reason for families with kids to prefer a big city over a small town, if work lets them move. And moving makes a big dent in both the financial (housing prices) and time commitment (WFH plus a backyard and friendly neighbors reducing active time requirements) costs of parenting at a single stroke.

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It’s amazing to me how wide a gulf instantly opened between us and our peer group when we chose to have a child. I literally don’t know what those guys are doing with their lives anymore other than being mad at us we can’t go to their New Years Eve kegger in a different city and “just bring her” if we don’t have a sitter.

They’re constantly miserable, constantly angry at everyone around them, and constantly lonely. We make a special (though unsuccessful) effort to avoid talking too much about Obviously The Most Perfect Baby Ever To Live, but every time she comes up you can feel the annoyance and (I hesitate to say) jealousy. One friend immediately shows us picture of “his” baby each time: an adorable rescue cat who I always want to see pictures of but it’s still weird?

Obviously the bigger issues are economic - doing this with a two-income family seems insane, especially given the cost of childcare. Despite a good job and a good income we’re still thousands of dollars in debt from the delivery alone. And debt from student loans plus actually spending four years in college can obviously delay the decision to have kids.

But part of it’s got to be that our culture teaches selfishness as the epitome of virtue and then gets confused why people are lonely.

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One thing I've noticed is parents always talk about the stress and pitfalls of being a parent, but never about the joys and triumphs of being a parent, which kinda gives prospective parents the impression unintentionally that "wow this really sucks". Yes, I know people love to complain, but I'm not sure why so many parents do this, especially in a world where less and less people today personally experience the fulfilling side of being a parent. It's just bad PR. I had older parents and grandparents, and it's the complete opposite of the Norman Rockwell idyllic conception of kids and families that I grew up with that, while arguably sentimental at times, at least promoted a positive vision of children and families as a blessing. I don't think Rockwell's popularity during the 50s at the height of the Baby Boom is a coincidence.

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This will depend on your personal bubble. I definitely absorbed an impression that *young babies* are gruelling but *children* are fantastic.

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