My Views on Optimal Family Size: Some Clarifications
By Bryan Caplan
1. Here’s Kerry:
I’m perplexed, though, by Bryan’s statement that “most people are hyper-aware of the important arguments against” raising kids, but ignorant of the good reasons.
Actually, on the second clause, I said something a little different – that “there are important arguments in favor of having more kids that most people haven’t thought about very much.” This doesn’t mean that they’re ignorant of all the good reasons, just the good reasons that I’ve been emphasizing.
But what about my claim that people are hyper-aware of the important arguments against having kids? Well, tell me if any of the following would surprise any adult: (a) Pregnancy lasts nine months, and is very uncomfortable; (b) Pregnancy permanently changes a woman’s body in several unaesthetic and uncomfortable ways; (c) Taking time off from work is pretty bad for women’s careers; (d) Babies cry a lot, and often keep their parents from sleeping; (e) Kids cost a lot of money; (f) Kids are demanding and ungrateful; (g) Moms do a lot more childcare than dads.
Surprising? I think not. The same goes for virtually all sound prudential arguments against having kids: They’re already well-known.
Bryan also implies that celebrity culture denigrates childbearing, which suggests that he really needs a Suri and Shiloh-filled subscription to… basically any tabloid.
I actually do subscribe to EW, which blends tabloid and cultural criticism; that’s news I can use.
In any case, my point is not that most celebrities are childless, for of course they aren’t. My point, rather, is that there are many prominent childless celebrities, and almost no one thinks this undermines their role-model status. So why should Jamie-Lynn’s pregnancy be a deal-breaker?
3. I’m not sure if I’m interpreting Kerry’s next point correctly, but hopefully she’ll correct me if I’m not:
Perhaps he [Caplan] has better data than I do, but last I checked the percentage of ever-married women who reported being voluntary childless was something like 6 percent…
The ‘childless by choice’ movement, as far as I can tell, is a paltry shadow of what it was in the 70’s. Pick up a copy of Redbook; today, we’re all about “work/life balance.”
Kerry may be right that explicit advocacy of childlessness was higher in the ’70’s; I don’t know. But the Current Population Survey definitely shows a sharp rise in the fraction of women aged 40-44 who have zero children. That percentage was 10.2% in 1976, versus 19.3% in 2004. That doesn’t directly contradict Kerry’s 6% figure, but I’d say that my number is a better measure of the popularity of the “childless by choice” lifestyle. (In fact, since fertility treatments have made it a lot easier to get pregnant than it was in 1976, my figures understate the rise in the popularity of voluntary childlessness).
Now just to repeat what I said in my last response to Will, I’m not trying to bully or shame anyone into having kids. I certainly don’t claim that the childless are “tyrannizing” over anyone. And I don’t advise everyone to have children. All I’m doing is pointing out some benefits of kids that even most smart and well-educated people haven’t really thought about.