How does education lower the demand for children?

It doesn’t always, but sometimes it does and here are some reasons why:

Caldwell identifies five mechanisms by which education reduces fertility by reshaping the economic relationship of parents and children. First, education reduces the ability of a child to work inside and outside the home – not just because school and studying take up time, but also because the child’s student status makes others reluctant to enforce traditional duties. Second, education increases the expense of raising a child, again not just because school is expensive, but because education increases a child’s demands on his parents for non-school expenses in a manner Caldwell describes as unprecedented. Third, education increases the dependency of children, reframing a formerly hard-working, productive child as primarily a producer and citizen. Fourth, schooling speeds up cultural change and creates new cultures. Finally, fifth, in the developing world education specifically transmits the values of the Western middle class, which is contemptuous of traditional “family morality” as described above.

That is from The View from Hell, via bullet-biting Ben Southwood on Twitter.

Not surprisingly, that is a post from the UK.  And if you’re wondering, there is a discussion involving the word “women” later in the post.


Thanks for reading - I'm actually in Texas though, not sure why the UK URL!

"Not surprisingly, that is a post from the UK" is a mystery to me anyway, wheresoever you live, Sis.

Tyler Cowen has history and expertise in cultural stereotyping... (regular readers have given up complaining about it)

I have an .AU (Australia) URL but this doesn't mean I'm actually there (and nor is it for tax reasons or because I'm seeking refugee status).

Children are the retirement plan for most adults in the world.

Oddly, they seem to understand better than we do the need for more workers to support each retiree, and to have privately owned sources of income with direct correlation to productive effort.

They live in poorer countries. Your policy prescriptions are appropriate for people who are very poor. It is like saying we should prefer mobile telephones to indoor plumbing.

Yes. For example, in Thailand the poor Thai elderly rely upon the poor Thai young to support them.

In Argentina, the poor Argentine elderly rely upon the poor Argentine young to support them.


In America, a wealthy nation, the rich American elderly rely upon the poor Thai, Argentine, etc. young to support them.

It will work out great.

It is mainly a baby boomer problem. I am calling for inter-generational warfare, though I don't think I'll have many takers as most everyone my age has parents.

I see downthread that's the current thinking, once the baby boomer's are all dead we'll be fine again?

That's purty funny.

I wonder how many commenters here have at least 1 1/2 kids to balance their support in their old age? Those younger than baby boom, I mean. Since it's a college + crowd, I'm thinking not too many? But we all believe we'll be all right in our old age because we're so darned valuable now?

Americans have this idea of retirement as a silo. We work all our lives and we build up our wealth and then from ages 65 to 85 we just go and draw from our stored riches as needed.

But that's not the way it works. Nothing the folks who comment here create is sitting in a barn somewhere. You hope to have been so valuable to others during your working years that in your senior years they will, in justice, provide for you. If they can't provide, though, because they only have enough to provide for themselves and their own children, justice doesn't matter.

But the solution called for is to kill off the baby boomers that we think are taking the wealth we would rather put in the silo for our later selves. That will fix it. Really very funny.

As long as America has the better guns (figuratively and literally) we will be able to support our elder selves on the backs of the global young. If that stops working, or if the poor world stops having kids, too, we'll be in a pickle.

Well, retirement savings are a silo I am filling up right now. Most of the commenters here are probably doing so as well, seeing as though it seems to be an above-average group in terms of intelligence and productivity. So yes, we work all our lives, build wealth, then live off that in retirement. I didn't know that wasn't correct.

Until very recently death was the retirement plan for everyone. Most people worked until some opportunistic infection came along and killed them.

Well, more like they worked until 65 but died before age 80, so retirement wasn't that long of a stretch. Home equity alone could make it work for most. Also, many moved in with their kids.

Quote from article:

"Making a new "person" - on which the state has claims, but you do not, and toward whom you have (class-dependent) obligations - is a much less economically attractive proposition..."


Also, I believe Brian Caplan postulates that children were net resource sinks even during preindustrial era.

Correct on Caplan:

So according to this, 'if Darwinian interests dominated, fertility should increase with increased survival, as observed in many historical elites'.

And yet, the thesis seems to be after this transformation in fertility, resources flow from parents to children, unlike the pre-transformation from children to parents.

Anyone want to hazard a guess how the resource flow from 'historical elites' worked? Or does one honestly believe that a duke's sons or daughters were transferring valuable labor as 9 year olds to the family coffers in the pre-transformation days? And not actually being educated (at least in the putative art of being an aristocrat, if nothing else) and supported (appropriate clothing and servants for their station, for example) using the resources of their parents?

Because it has never really been a feature of historical elites that they thought their children were worth having because 'they used to be much more like slaves or farm animals, which are both very valuable.'

At least Kipling knew his just so stories were fiction.

But the closing line really puts that web site in line for best satire site - 'Making a new "person" - on which the state has claims, but you do not, and toward whom you have (class-dependent) obligations - is a much less economically attractive proposition than making a new slave.'

Weirdly I've been working on a paper on elite fertility for weeks - as it relates to diet, life history, age at menarche, and r/K selection switches. Where "eugenic" fertility occurs, as in "Farewell to Alms," elite children have high survival compared to poor children. Elite status is very important to hold on to in evolutionary terms, because you get a sort of "gene spigot" to spray the population with your genes. To hold onto it, you must produce at least one heir of the right sex, and the more the better. Diet may allow for earlier reproduction. Elite parents would be shielded from the harmful effects of children, even including wet nurses in some places. Caldwell discusses this in his section on the transformation in Europe.

By "women" you mean male-to-female transgender? I kid. I think I can because my view is we all need to be taken down a few notches on the status and taking ourselves too seriously scale. We are all going to die you know.

So, the wifey asked why the north didn't use slaves. I said, well, obviously because they were morally superior my dear.

But I think it is really because industry requires skilled labor, or more accurately, it requires keeping hacks well clear of the machine.

So, perhaps the demand for kids dropped but we still had to find something to do with them. So why not an education/signaling warehouse that helps determine who will get to touch the equipment?

I would say it was because at the time slavery was eliminated in the North climatic conditions made slave agriculture not particularily economic and by the time industry arose there a new source of labor, mass immigration and increased farm productivity, had arisen and it had become politically impossible to return to a slave regime.

"Supposing that the soil, climate, and productions of the country were adapted to slave labor, they naturally desired to introduce the institution to which they had been accustomed during their whole lives. Accordingly, the territorial Legislature passed laws, the object an effect of which was to introduce slavery under what was called a system of indentures. These laws authorized the owners of slaves to bring them into the territory, and there enter into contracts with them, by which the slaves were to serve the master during the time specified in the contracts or "indentures," which were usually for a period reaching beyond the life of the slaves; and in the event the slaves should refuse to enter into the indenture, after being brought into the territory, the master was allowed thirty days to take them back again, so is not to lose the right of property in them. Under the operation of these laws, Illinois became a slaveholding territory under the ordinance, and in utter defiance of its plain and palpable provision. The convention which assembled at Kaskaskia, in 1818, to form the Constitution of the state of Illinois, was composed, to considerable extent, of slaveholders, representing a slaveholding constituency. This body of men had become satisfied, from experience, that the climate and productions of the country were unfavorable to slave labor, and that the institution was prejudicial to their interests and welfare. Accordingly, we find three important principles established in the Constitution which they formed, and with which Illinois was admitted into the Union:"

Stephen A. Douglas, senior Senator from Illinois, regarding the Compromise of 1850.

Douglas omits the fact that Illinois had slavery, even de jure slavery in the salt mines in Southern Illinois and in the plantations in the French settlements. There is nothing particularly different about the climate of Missouri and Illinois.

The North used cheap labor brought in by immigration. At least this is what the plantation owners of the South claimed, but I don't think they made an unreasonable argument.

However, workers in the North who wouldn't or couldn't deal with the competition could always go West. The slaves in the South didn't have that option.

The planters brought in slaves because cotton-picking is hard work, and the wages on offer couldn't attract free men who could just go West. So the planters imported darker-skinned, cheaper workers like they do now, except we just pay them what it used to cost to house and feed them, and get the taxpayers to make up any shortfall.

Now of course Southerners use motor-driven harvesters (which will shortly be driverless). But people still whine about how they just have to have gangs of darkies pulling the plows or the crops will rot in the fields and everybody will starve.

If slaves had not been available there should have been very few large plantations and instead Southern farming would have involved lots of small farms, as farming did in the north. Yes, cotton would have cost a bit more, but the cost would have not been prohibitive any more than the cost of wheat or corn was.


I am a fan of small farms and favor much of what you say, but corn and wheat took much less labor pre- cotton gin.

Is no one going to note that the North didn't use slaves because they got the South to use them for them? Using the cotton in textiles, etc.?

And how would that speak to the premise, which I read as that we use slave labor of elsewhere instead of using the labor of our selves and families, and so we have to have somewhere to put the kids during the day? I find that kinda compelling.

First of all, educated people usually work. That means time constraints. Also, they don't receive welfare, but they pay a lot for education of their kids. As if this were not enough, educated people's income is taxed to pay for the welfare of the lazy stupid masses.

Our civilisation is committing suicide.

All very true, but lacking the dry wit of the Devil's Dictionary.

Yet they flee to live with us, while few Taki-esque despairing reactionaries go to live in Burundi.

You should probably familiarize yourself with the term "welfare magnet."

They flee to work. Why don't Taki-types liquidate their savings from the decadent rich world, and move to Swaziland where women are subjugated and fertile? Why not set an example to illustrate the merit of your beliefs?

Your weird obsession with Taki Theodoracopulos is certainly unusual. Is he becoming a major bogeyman in your cult? I try to keep up with these things, but this is the first I've read one of you ranting about Taki Theodoracopulos.

Why flee when you can arrange your assets such that they no longer support the system? Although FWIW, there is no shortage of Western entrepreneurs in East Asia.

I wonder if the stage is being set for an awful conflict between K-selected and r-selected societies. The GMU Econ department is certainly not helping matters.

More like the pod people that colonized the West are planning to use the peasants of the third world to kill off the Western middle-class. The invasion coming south to north can be stopped in a week. The Western rulers refuse to do it.

What a stupid statement.

Stupid because you don't understand it or stupid because you wish it was not true?

If education leads people to think it would have been better if they had never been born, thus leading them to avoid having children, maybe there's something wrong with the schools. Or, maybe the great die-off happening in the West and spreading around the globe is caused by something else. Perhaps the Greek proverb sheds some light on the subject. "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."

What's it mean when no one wants to plant any trees?

"If education leads people to think it would have been better if they had never been born" -- hah! That's a working theory!

Education is a barrier to affordable family formation for K-selected people. White/Asian school districts and private school are increasingly expensive, as the flood of r-selected immigrants continues, and rent-seeking, publicly subsidized educators have made the process way too long and expensive.

catholic church is responsible for high fertility of mexicans.But you will shamelessly defend it.

When you give birthright citizenship and welfare to r-selected people, more r-selected people is what you get.

Is that really true? Not all Mexicans are Catholic. And of the one's who identify as Catholic, how many are committed Catholics, ie, they attend Mass on a semi-regular basis? How many actually follow the church's line on birth control?

My anecdotal impression is most Mexicans in the US are areligious or protestant Evangelicals. Actually, I did look for some statistics on Mexican population in the US and Catholics in the US over time, and I recall there has been only around 5% growth in nominal Catholics over the past ten years.

People forget Mexico hosted Trotsky and all but outlawed the Catholic Church at one point.

What high fertility? Mexico is close to replacement these days. There are very few truly "high fertility" countries left in the world.

And yet name the most functional productive societies: Singapore, Hong Kong, Canada, USA, UK, Germany, Japan, Sweden, South Korea Switzerland, etc. And what do they have in common: Low birth rates. Productive societies need education and competitive workforces which drives people from having the time and stability to have children.

Those are rich and happy countries. India and Burundi are not. Clearly, conservatives don't want you to be happy. Their ironically anti-humanist natalism comes first.

Not all conservatives only the neocon scum.

When all the smart people have removed themselves from the gene pool, where will those productive societies be?

That state of affairs isn't sustainable. It can't last, and civilization can't last with it. Fall-of-Rome events are very, very bad -- if natalists don't want you to be happy, progressives don't care whether the natalists' great-grandchildren starve to death or get mauled by savages or contract diseases that are easily preventable/curable with current levels of technology.

But do natalists really not want you to be happy?

It's hard to find good statistics on happiness across countries, and not just for the usual linguistic/cultural reasons: there's also the problem that measures claiming to be about happiness actually measure how similar the country is politically to Sweden. Ipsos only asks the one question, and India comes up as the second-happiest country in the world.

If there's a niche, Nature fills it. smart kids will be born to someone. And even a cursory study of royal families over the generations should convince people that intelligence does not faithfully follow family lines.

Reading "War on the Weak" and it makes the point that early positive eugenics proponents assumed the best marrying the best would result only in their best traits being passed on.

Don't most of these productive societies rely heavily on foreigners to supply the ACTUAL smart people? Where do your PhD chemists come from? Where do your Google founders come from? Where do your doctors come from?

Are you being sarcastic?

Nurses, accountants and teachers are actually smart, yet are rarely found as trained professionals in fecund subsistence economies.

Several points:

1) In terms of low birth rate and productivity the range of countries include nations from Asia, Europe and the North America. And the two most competitive South American nations are Brazil and Chile both of whom are below replacement level fertility. So it consistent across the world.
2) India is prime example of the "Exception That Proves The Rule" here about productivity and low birth rates. Their birth rate is dropping a lot the last 40 years from 6+ kids to 2.5 kids and the most successful Southern India cities are dropping below replacement level. (So it is less successful North India keeping the birth rate up.)
3) How much of Chinese growth the last 30 years has been because of the one child rule along with the opening up of markets?

Yes, productivie societies are relying on immigrants to help fill lots of positionf from PhD chemists to picking fruit which has some negative short term effect on native wages.

My issue is that fertility rates have strongly tracked each other throughout the globe, despite HUGE variations in income between nations. In your South American example, Peru has also seen a rather substantial decline in birth rates without any economic mircale. Argentina was the low-birth capital of South America, with nothing to show for it after Peronist nonsense. Clearly there are issues of economic governance that play an extremely large role here. This definitely affects young people in the current US, given the recession, and the extreme rise in rents.

The low birth rates came after those countries became rich.

It seems like it is a circular function here. In all reality the US birth went a huge drop from 1776 to 1932 (where the birth rate had briefly dropped below replacement fertility level.) and only increased back up with the relief of The Great Depression and the post WW2 years.

A society needs smarter people to grow richer so they put off marriage and children. Then they become richer and have families. Then a recession hits so some unemployed resources increase education which puts off marriage and kids some more. (There were all kinds of the waste of High School education money on women back in the 1930s.)

Low fertility isn't a problem. There's a short-term welfare state problem due to the Baby Boomers. What is odd to me is that while the society clearly opposes high fertility rates in general, the elites are trying to force in as many foreigners as possible in order to solve the "problem." Is there another issue where the elites are so opposed to the revealed preferences of the general public?

Please explain to me how society opposes high fertility rates? The US has kinds of tax breaks for dependents and the country provides free education to the young people. I know there is lots stuff on the margins (say, Social Security) but I believe the main reason birth rates are dropping is because the labor market is a lot more competitive than it was 50 years ago. So it is the free market driving this change.

Also, name a rich and productive society (w/o an obvious petrostate like Saudia Arabia) that has a high birth rate? Israel is the closest I can name.

> Please explain to me how society opposes high fertility rates?

Taxes. If you want the government to be neutral towards something, you can't tax it. Virtually all childcare expenses go through the income tax system, and the offsetting deductions are tiny. Usually you can deduct an expense that is a cost of doing business. This is normal for corporations - you get taxed on your profit, not your revenue. But childcare expense (daycare, etc) deductions, for example, are tiny and phase out.

Really all expenses associated with children ought to be deductible. That would raise some record-keeping issues, so my preferred suggestion is to raise the per-child credit to $30,000 but make it non-refundable. That would approach a child-neutral tax code. The idea that children are subsidized is preposterous.

We are not taxing children. No, we aren't. The money that gets spent on kids would be taxed no less if the kids did not exist.

Also, your explanation fails to explain how we had a baby boom when overall tax rates were at least as high as they are now.

I don't know, it's the best case I've seen for the idea that we at least aren't using the tax code to promote larger families, which it seemed to me before this comment we were. If you look upon it as social engineering through taxation to promote an end based on how people spend time, you do get "paid" more to work than you do to work on having kids. That's new and interesting to me.

fails to explain how we had a baby boom when overall tax rates were at least as high as they are now

This is non-responsive. The thesis in the comment you replied to was about tax-incidence on child-raising, not total tax raised by the government.

I'm not sure I buy Finch's thesis or his suggested correction, but having children definitely involves much higher monetary spending in the 2010s than it did in the 1950s, and this is all post-tax money, so taxes are more significant today on the decision to have another child than they were back then.

If a Martian looked at my taxes, he would get the impression the government was most interested in encouraging me to live in an expensive home in a high-tax town in a high-tax state, followed somewhat distantly by saving for retirement. Those are the large deductions. Remember "fully deductible" means "neutral treatment." Otherwise the action is discouraged.

Most of the money I spend on kids is taxed at roughly 50%.

If you are low income, meaning below $75k or so, things are somewhat different. I always found it funny that student loan interest is deductible only for people who never should have gotten a college degree. If you earned a degree in engineering, for example, you almost certainly make too much to deduct student loan interest.

If wives and children are so valuable to patriarchs, why did we develop the so-called "monogamous" system? Polygamy makes much more sense. Monogamy limits the patriarch's production of resources.

Polygamous societies are a complete effing disaster.

Well, yes. There is nothing worse than being a male in a polygamous society.

Which is honestly why I expect the left to start pushing it here in the USA in the next decade or so.

"8" beat me to a point I wanted to bring up. The best solution to "we don't have enough people," isn't immigration, but a higher birthrate among the right side of the bell-curve (no assimilation problems *and* eugenic).

But The Left would have to give up in electing a new people, and the Bush/Boehner wing of the GOP loses cheap labor (and might have to pass a paid maternity leave law).

So it's not going to happen.

Good book, "Growing Up With The Country". Describes children's lives of Oregon Trail families, etc.

What you'd expect, a lot of independent kids (running and playing without supervision), a lot of useful kids (very young kids riding ahead to shoot the snakes), and lots of kids dying (and if you can't be sure how many will die, why would you limit how many you let be born?). Contrast with kids we don't let be independent (which makes them a lot more work and expense -- even college education doesn't have to be a burden if you expect young people to decide on college and pay for it themselves), we don't let be useful (even newspaper routes are entirely adult-run these days), and we expect not to die.

Then in the U.S. take 40 years of Ehrlich after 200 years of Malthus being taught as gospel and the moral code shifts decidely to favoring the childless or those with only one child.

Back in the day it was much more socially acceptable to have 5 kids with a 10% chance of losing one here or there. Childhood mortality has fallen by a factor of ten over the past 80 years or so and we're still pushing a lot of resources into driving it down further with state investigations for every childhood death. It's hard to criticize that, but a pretty big side effect is that each kid becomes another chance for the state to put you in jail if you make a mistake.

That is a point, and can be extrapolated out, having kids today mandates a lot of "systems" into your life, the systems cause stress and interaction with them brings risk.

Jim finds that the difference between high-fertility and low-fertility females in Tibet is western education past age 12:

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