Bargaining over babies

by on March 16, 2016 at 1:38 am in Economics, Uncategorized | Permalink

There are new results from Matthias Doepke and Fabian Kindermann, here is the upshot:

A policy that lowers the child care burden specifically on mothers can be more than twice as effective at increasing the fertility rate compared to a general child subsidy.

The most likely implication is that a lot of the fathers don’t help out with child care very much, and they don’t much mind the greater burden being borne by their wives.

1 Fizz-Assist March 16, 2016 at 1:49 am

Stickin’ it to the man…

2 AIG March 16, 2016 at 2:30 am

“It takes a woman and a man to make a baby”

Wow! So much homophobia, trans-phobia, misogyny and sexism just in the first sentence. The authors should read a few sociology and anthropology papers to understand that this is just a social construct imposed on us by the hegemonic hegemony of hegemons.

Anyway, on a serious note, what sort of policy would this be? Ok, maybe this would be a good argument for “parental leave” (which otherwise seems like a silly policy), if the results aren’t due to some idiosyncratic conditions of the countries studied.

3 Anna March 16, 2016 at 2:42 am

Sure, it takes a woman and a man to make a baby, but technically, only sperm is needed from the man. Much more is needed from the woman.

There’s lots of sperm going around, at least in theory.

4 AIG March 16, 2016 at 3:36 am

You sound very hegemonic Anna.

5 ricardo March 16, 2016 at 10:10 am

“There’s lots of sperm going around, at least in theory.”

In practice too. But is it all perfectly substitutable?

6 Albigensian March 16, 2016 at 10:30 am

Blame Darwin. It’s always been momma’s baby, poppa’s maybe. Uncertain paternity should, by Darwinian rules, result in reduced parental investment.

And then there’s the contemporary version in which, when couples split, primary paternal custody remains very rare indeed. And when these (maybe) fathers discover that the only legal right they have regarding their children is the right to pay, well, those who can may opt out entirely.

7 Lord Action March 16, 2016 at 10:33 am

Mandatory paternity testing might increase fatherly investment on average.

8 Nathan W March 16, 2016 at 10:44 am

David Hume preceded him by over 100 years in making that theory explicit. Hume was virtually mandatory reading for Western intellectuals well into the 20th century.

9 Doug March 16, 2016 at 3:12 am

> Anyway, on a serious note, what sort of policy would this be?

There’s always the proposal that affirmative action for women should be explicitly tied to motherhood. For example many countries have requirements that X% of corporate board seats be allocated to women. Why not change this so that women with more than two children count double, and women with no children count half. If the primary reason that women lag in later careers is because of the burden of motherhood, then affirmative action policy should explicitly favor mothers over non-mothers.

10 AIG March 16, 2016 at 3:36 am

Yeah I suspect such a policy would go over very well. /sarc But I also think this seems a rather bad idea, since it combines the two things the left and the right hate: affirmative action with women having babies.

Since I haven’t read the paper (yet), the only policy prescription that I can think of that would make sense, if this is indeed a real effect, is parental leave. If one forgets about grandparents and other relatives which may be involved in child-rearing. This result should be pretty obvious, especially to anyone who has lived in a…modern…society with higher fertility rates (i.e. one where women work but also have babies): grandparents do much of the legwork.

11 Doug March 16, 2016 at 4:36 am

No I definitely, don’t think it’s politically viable. Just food for thought. Feminist identity politics is generally concerned with raising the social status of women relative to men. But low fertility rates in Western societies are generally about the status of some women (mothers) relative to other women (dedicated career women). So of course, it’s a total political non-starter.

But absent a policy like this, you’re stuck in a no-win scenario where you have to pick a poison. Either women stop having babies and you face long-term demographic collapse. Or women stop participating in the labor force, with serious consequences on economic growth rates. In reality most corporate advancement is merely signaling.

Very few careers actually require 20 years of a dedicated career tract to achieve competence, it’s mostly about just putting in the face time and paying your dues. Government policy can simply mandate that corporation treat ten years of child rearing and ten years of work as the equivalent of twenty years of dedicated work. Ten vs twenty years of experience will make very little difference to the vast majority of high-level career positions. There’s virtually zero loss of efficiency.

12 Nathan W March 16, 2016 at 6:26 am

Provisions for one year, or as much as two years, of maternity leave are increasingly common in the West, often funded as a part of unemployment insurance. Increasingly, the couple has the freedom to choose whether the mother or father will take the leave, and/or divide up the leave between them as they see fit. This goes together with laws requiring employers to hire back on parents who take time off for parental leave.

Child care subsidies and/or public sector child care provisions are also a hot topic at times. In Quebec, which perceives itself as a lonely Francophone Island in the midst of an Anglophone sea, pro-natalism has long had a place in public policy, and subsidized child care ($7 per day!) meets dual objectives of helping women to maintain access to career opportunities and pro-natalism at the same time.

Contrary to the common assumption that earlier exposure to socialization would improve socialization later in schooling, I recall reading a research report which showed that behavioural problems were slightly (2-3% if memory serves correct) more common among children who went to child care instead of staying at home. Casuality was not proven though, and there are plausible alternative explanations to the “child care causes behavioural problems” thesis, for example some parents who need the second income (even despite nearly free child care) rather than staying at home may have other problems in the household which contribute to behavioural problems (lack of money being a classic cause of tension, even so far as being associated with slightly higher rates of domestic violence).

On the matter of grandparents: I’m presently in China, and even though most households only have 1-2 children, Iwhen I’m out, of the pre-school children I see, nearly as many are being attended by grandparents as by parents.

13 Cliff March 16, 2016 at 10:03 am

“Contrary to the common assumption that earlier exposure to socialization would improve socialization later in schooling, I recall reading a research report”

Try reading more than one. Other studies have the opposite result.

14 Nathan W March 16, 2016 at 10:53 am

Does universal child care increase or decrease socialization (defined as reduced behavioural problems)? Well, the Quebec example is actually one of the only cases in existence, so the case of one is a pretty complete reading.

Contrary evidence is welcome, as usual. Pointing out the theoretical possibility that it might exist for some other jurisdiction is not very useful.

15 So Much For Subtlety March 16, 2016 at 7:16 pm

Nathan W March 16, 2016 at 6:26 am

In Quebec, which perceives itself as a lonely Francophone Island in the midst of an Anglophone sea, pro-natalism has long had a place in public policy, and subsidized child care ($7 per day!) meets dual objectives of helping women to maintain access to career opportunities and pro-natalism at the same time.

Yeah? What is Quebec’s birth rate again? French speaking Canada used to have the highest birth rate in the world. They did not have subsidized child care or career opportunities. They had the Church. They gave up the latter for the former – and as a result they have no children. Their rate is one of the lowest in the world and would be even lower in Quebec was not trying to import more French speaking immigrants.

Welfare spending has nothing whatsoever to do with birth rates. They cannot raise it one iota.

16 Nathan W March 17, 2016 at 12:12 am

Indeed, fertility collapsed in Quebec around the same time that the welfare state was expanding. However, this does not imply that welfare causes lower fertility. Fertility declined due to social changes that were shared throughout much of the West around roughly the same time, not due to welfare.

However, on the matter of whether certain social programs may or may not increase fertility … the findings reported in this post suggest quite the opposite of what you say.

17 Randy McDonald March 17, 2016 at 12:25 am

So Much for Subtlety:

“[Quebec’s fertility rate] rate is one of the lowest in the world”

Actually, no. If you go to Statistics Canada, you’ll see that Quebec’s TFR is one of the highest in Canada, hovering around 1.7 children per woman. This, incidentally, is slightly above the Canadian average and, last I checked, maybe 15-20% ahead of Ontario’s.

18 Litmus March 16, 2016 at 4:52 am

Remains the question why we should want a higher birth rate. Arguably there are already too many people. Especially stupid and evil people aka the average person.

19 Randy McDonald March 17, 2016 at 12:31 am

“Why not change this so that women with more than two children count double, and women with no children count half.”

What happens to women with fertility issues?

20 Jan March 16, 2016 at 8:21 am

It’s funny that there is literally nobody seriously saying stuff like that on this blog, but given the opportunity you can always count on at least a couple jokesters taking up some prime real estate to post these hilarious sarcastic takes. They’re often the first or second comment, too.

[insert micro-aggression joke here!!]

21 Urso March 16, 2016 at 2:48 pm

You’re correct that there’s nobody saying that on this blog, which is one reason I read this blog as opposed to the possible alternatives (which is not to say that I agree with everything posted on this blog, either).

22 Hazel Meade March 16, 2016 at 12:51 pm

Wow! So much homophobia, trans-phobia, misogyny and sexism just in the first sentence. The authors should read a few sociology and anthropology papers to understand that this is just a social construct imposed on us by the hegemonic hegemony of hegemons.

This started off as such an accurate portrayal of a SJW that I took you seriously at first. You give it away at the end with the redundant use of hegemon.

23 Doug March 16, 2016 at 3:09 am

Alternative hypothesis: Fertility rates are closely tied to the relative social status of young mothers relative to their peers. Policy explicitly assisting in child rearing signals a general cultural respect for the institution of motherhood. In a much more public and visible way than monetary child subsidies.

24 mulp March 17, 2016 at 12:07 am

If by social status you mean the father has a great job that pays well and is very secure, then I’d agree that it has to do with “social status”.

Marriage with children is a consumption good and the quality and desirability of the marriage is related to how affordable it is.

A man with low or unstable income will find a marriage with children too costly, and will default on it and let the service be terminated and family repossessed.

Women have been learning from experience that many men are unable to afford families with children due to economists advocating economic policies focused on slashing labor costs to boost profits.

Adaptation involves women limiting fertility until they are assured of income security, or their ability to have children is ending and they have no choice but have a child or never have a child, and men and women living together for companionship, mutual aid, and living expense reduction, but without the commitment of huge portions of income that children would require long term.

Not much status in having children that reinforce your low income status.

Economists seem to think children make parents get paid a lot for doing the same work as when single or childless. That actually was the policy of many employers before Reaganomics, as families with children were handcuffs for valuable employees, along with pensikns, longer vacations, benefits, etc. Employers invested a lot to train employees, and build their value to the enterprise, so families with children reduced the odds an employee would jump to a new employer in another location, which requires uprooting kids, finding new schools and then getting the kids into a new social nrtwork.

But when employers are told that cutting labor costs is a top priority, and that employees are just commodities that can be acquired and then disposed of at will, workers with children become a very undesirable commodity. And employers will see the wisdom of very low fertility and high labor import to grow the population with only productive workers, not unproductive burdensome kids.

25 Moreno Klaus March 16, 2016 at 5:52 am

Well there are very very few countries with an (enforced) father leave policy… So how are they going to take care of the child again? Well i dont like children anyway so i dont really care, for me its perfect lool

26 MC March 16, 2016 at 10:33 pm

Even if leave were made mandatory, there’s no way to force fathers to spend time taking care of children instead of doing other things. After an increase, the amount of time that men spend on childrearing and housework has remained static for the past 25+ years. Men ain’t going to do more of it.

27 chuck martel March 16, 2016 at 6:10 am

The demographics of Sun City, Arizona are very popular with some of the people I know.

28 bellisaurius March 16, 2016 at 7:41 am

The abstract’s confusing me. It goes from saying: babies are likely to arrive only if both parents desire one, and there are many couples who disagree on having babies to “A policy that lowers the child care burden specifically on mothers can be more than twice as effective at increasing the fertility rate ”

So, women are the ones who don’t want kids generally, and it’s because they get stuck with the muck of it, and I’m not sue if the muck is mostly on the front end or the back end (ed note- because your not changing the diapers sweetie). I can see policy helping the front end (making dads take some kind of generous parental leave that they can split with their mates), but the only thing that’s changing the other end is social norms and maybe a little bit of education.

29 JWatts March 16, 2016 at 11:12 am

A) “A policy that lowers the child care burden specifically on mothers can be more than twice as effective at increasing the fertility rate compared to a general child subsidy.”

B) “The most likely implication is that a lot of the fathers don’t help out with child care very much, and they don’t much mind the greater burden being borne by their wives.”

How does A lead to B?

Wouldn’t the more likely implication be that Women are the primary deciders of whether she has a baby? And thus targeting her specifically is more effective than targeting him?

B might be true, but I don’t see it’s the logical inference.

30 Thomas March 16, 2016 at 2:04 pm

It is the PC inference, therefore…

31 Turkey Vulture March 16, 2016 at 3:21 pm

Seems most logical to me.

32 Lord Action March 16, 2016 at 4:42 pm

Vacuuming and changing diapers are not the hard part about having a child. Pregnancy is hard, paying for college is hard, and handling the odd real crisis is hard. It’s not obvious that distribution of chores has anything to do with this.

33 Urso March 16, 2016 at 5:25 pm

Whenever you talk to someone who has no kids (and no immediate plans to have kids), they will almost inevitably mention something about “omg I can’t see myself changing diapers.” This canard about diapers seems to be the go-to comment, but I can’t figure out why. Diapers is like .1% of the difficulty of raising a kid. It’s almost charmingly naive, like if someone were to talk to a brain surgeon and say “oh I could never work for hours with that mask over my mouth.”

34 JWatts March 16, 2016 at 5:57 pm

“Diapers is like .1% of the difficulty of raising a kid. ”

Well to be fair, it’s probably 15% of the difficulty for the first two years, if you handle it well. But I’m continuously surprised at the number of parents who didn’t/don’t plan for changing diapers and seem to have far more trouble than my wife and I do.

Granted, being an engineer I looked at it as a system’s problem and designed a system from the get go to minimize the effort and downsides.

35 Lord Action March 17, 2016 at 8:39 am

“It’s almost charmingly naive, like if someone were to talk to a brain surgeon and say “oh I could never work for hours with that mask over my mouth.””

I liked this whole comment. Very funny and very true.

36 Lord Action March 17, 2016 at 9:10 am

“it’s probably 15% of the difficulty for the first two years”

I’m with Urso on this: it’s 0.1% of the difficulty. Have a child get struck by a car and tell me that diapers were a significant part of the difficulty of being a parent.

If you have no children, nothing you do matters. Nobody cares. Maybe your mom cares (because she’s wondering if you’re going to have children), but really, nobody else cares or experiences any consequences from your actions. Being a parent makes you automatically matter to someone: for a while you’re the most important person in their life. That’s responsibility and that’s hard.

37 JWatts March 17, 2016 at 11:20 am

“I’m with Urso on this: it’s 0.1% of the difficulty. Have a child get struck by a car and tell me that diapers were a significant part of the difficulty of being a parent. ”

Yes, that’s a good point.

38 bellisaurius March 17, 2016 at 12:45 pm

Not so sure .1% is right. Not necessarily for the work amount, but for one of the things that sharing workload will come into play.

I assume me and the missus aren’t the only ones who occasionally play the “I just got a whiff of something, let’s see if the other person changes them first.”

39 Urso March 17, 2016 at 1:41 pm

When we’re both present, I’d say it’s close to 50-50. But how frequently are we both present; ah, there’s the rub.

40 Lord Action March 17, 2016 at 1:46 pm

I have to admit that as a parent, I find horrible diaper stories waaay more funny than my non-parent friends…

41 JBinNH March 17, 2016 at 3:15 pm

I agree. Diapers were just a chore once we got the system figured out (though there was the one memorable major blow-out at a restaurant. Pro tip: the restaurant staff have much better cleaning equipment than you do, let them clean the chair and the floor while you go clean the kid. Then leave a big tip and go home).

Ear infections were hard. School conflicts were hard. Chicken pox was medium hard. Diapers were not hard.

42 GoneWithTheWind March 16, 2016 at 1:45 pm

“A policy that lowers the child care burden”. That sounds suspiciously like a taxpayer subsidized increase in welfare. Why? Our “poor” are already better off than the middle class in all of Europe and better off than the rich in third world countries. If you have children then you need to take care of them yourself and stop taxing the rest of us into poverty to do your job.

43 Bob March 16, 2016 at 2:06 pm

Yes, subsidizing parasitism increases parasitism. Why is this a surprise, and why is this considered a good thing?

44 Nathan W March 17, 2016 at 12:31 am

Traditionally, communities help to raise each other’s children. Have each other’s backs and all. If you visit small towns in the non-modernized world, you will see communal child raising all over the world. It is the norm, not the exception.

45 A B March 16, 2016 at 3:06 pm

The technical term for this is finding a local maxima. The authors are willing to look at a small set of choices which don’t stray from current WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) norms. A culture oriented around younger marriage, negative associations with sex outside of marriage and divorce, and enough stay-at-home moms to form strong female networks would increase the fertility rate a lot more.
Just sayin’

46 Unanimous March 16, 2016 at 6:26 pm

The baby boom occured at a time when fathers were less involved with their kids than at most other times in history. But, with women staying at home their total work burden was less than at most other times in history, hence the baby boom I guess.

47 pwyll March 16, 2016 at 8:13 pm

Social Matter has a good recent article on what will end up being necessary if people are actually serious about raising fertility rates. (Hint: lots more than what’s been offered so far.) http://www.socialmatter.net/2016/03/01/throwing-natalist-benefits-at-women-wont-fix-low-fertility-rates/

48 So Much For Subtlety March 16, 2016 at 9:15 pm

A very good link. And willing to say the obvious.

It is wrong about one thing though. We have examples of people who have gone from low-fertility to high-fertility. Specifically the Lubavitch Jewish community does a great deal of missionary work aimed at making secular Jews observant Orthodox Jews. Well, Ultra-Orthodox Jews.

So they try to convert, if that is the right word, Jewish women in places like New York, where I am willing to bet secular Jewish women have roughly 1 child each on average, and get them to observe religious customs. The Chabad have something on the order of eight children per woman.

49 Nathan W March 17, 2016 at 12:34 am

I don’t see how a combination of religious zealotry and population explosion could lead to good outcomes in the long run.

50 Randy McDonald March 17, 2016 at 9:41 am

Indeed. I’d suggest that the overall economic effects for the group in question would be decidedly negative. Apparently the ultra-Orthodox depend heavily on communal living and government subsidies for the poor in order to subsist, and even then live far below the poverty line. In a less permissive environment, their lifestyle could well be impossible.

51 Randy McDonald March 17, 2016 at 12:29 am

Even Ceaucescu’s totalitarian state only managed to keep Romanian fertility, in the long run, slightly above replacement levels, and that required Romania to be an isolated totalitarian state. In a world with even moderately transparent borders, what is to keep women in a society run so conservatives from running towards the nearest border?

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