Sentences to ponder

Policies, such as the minimum wage, that affect the cost of marketization, have a large [negative] effect on the fertility and labor supply of high income women.

Here is the full research paper, which focuses on the flattening of the income-fertility curve, via a loyal MR reader.


So, to increase fertility, hike the minimum wage?

Note, the minimum wage in the US fell from 1980 to 2010. And since.

Exactly the opposite.

Kind of meshes with lower fertility from high safety net countries in Europe.

America's fertility isn't substantially different from Britain, France, or Sweden. As a whole America's fertility is bigger than Europe's, but only due to Red and non-White America. Massachusetts' fertility rate is at Germany's level. New York and Mexifornia are higher, but if you count only Whites I'd bet it wouldn't be any different.(Anyone have data on his?)

*America's fertility is higher

Red America? You mean Native Americans?

Those countries also have significant immigrant populations

Your snark is reflective of the fact today you don't have a point to make.

*fact that

Nah it's reflective of the fact that I like trolling racists like you.

Msgkings is still miffed about Tyler's stereotype threat post.

LOL sorry to have triggered you Anonymous. Not really though.

The problem seems not to be the safety net, but the cost of hiring minimum wage workers to care for children. At least that's how I'm reading it.

So in human language, the claim is: A high minimum wage decreases the fertility and amount of work done by high-income women.

Right. Because it drives up the price of nannies....

This seems pretty intuitive. I'd expect there also to be an increase in high-income womens' fertility when you decrease the "friction" of this kind of transaction--if there's an existing grocery-delivery service, or nice meal-delivery services, or yard service, or maid service, then it's easier in terms of time and hassle to get those services, and that makes it easier for women to keep working while still making sure there's food in the house/on the table, the house is clean, etc.

When people wonder why women are always complaining about second class status, they should look to posts like this. albatross clearly means no harm, but look how casually he assumes cleaning and feeding the household is the woman's job. I get that men and women are not identical, but it seems a little unfair to just assume that as if it were the way it must be. Sexism and racism are no longer (or at least very rarely, not including the uptick in both in Trumpworld) virulent, obvious, hateful oppressions. But the default cultural assumptions still make it harder to be female or non-white. The good news is that's changing for the better.

I could be mistaken, but I think albatross is saying that is what the paper’s result is saying. The paper is holding up two correlated things, albatross is trying to spell out the causation... if we’re being charitable, we should say albatross is spelling out that causation free of judgement. If I felt like a second class citizen it would be because of a system with unfair expectations of me, not people in online forums trying to state those expectations explicitly.

If I say that most people are cis, am I oppressing gays? Am I making them second class? No, I am making a factual statement about today's reality.

Similarly, saying that women currently provide most childcare/cleaning/blabla is not assuming anything, nor is it sexism.

As a small step toward the "better" world you should change your handle from msgkings to msgqueens.

look how casually he assumes cleaning and feeding the household is the woman’s job

Women are assumed to do stereotypical women's work because these have been women's jobs for the past 500,000 years of human history, and because every society in the history of the earth has strictly defined men's and women's roles, and the women's role most often revolves around the family home. So albatross is not making a "casual" assumption. He is making the assumption based on the preponderance of evidence.

A rare miss. What “default cultural assumptions” make it harder to be a woman or nonwhite in general?

Remember this isn’t Vox or Dailykos.

You can’t make sweeping ill defined assertions.

Ceteris paribus, and I mean ceteris paribus, are nonwhite and or female/noncisgender Americans doing worse?

I think when you look at it from a statistical perspective it is actually the opposite...

You go ahead and breast feed a baby.

I knew I'd stir up the hornets nest LOL.

Patito: agreed, well said, but again the culture is the air we all breathe from birth, and in the past the culture was unfair to the 'others', and it's better now but still not all the way there.

Anonymous: saying those things is not sexism, but assuming they are how it's supposed to be is a little bit (like Faze below)

Blokk: man you're dumb

Faze: there are many things in human nature that evolve and change over time. Women's and men's roles are already vastly different than 500,000 years ago, and 50,000, and 1,000, and 100, and even 30. And they will continue to evolve. I was just noting how the culture is still there, and that many times the dominant group doesn't see it.

Potato: Are nonwhite Americans doing worse? Um... Is it harder to be a woman? This is less obvious, again I was just noting that there are still some cultural assumptions that make it annoying to be female.

Harun: Well, having had kids I fed them their mom's bottled milk plenty, and I feed them plenty now. Women are not = men, there will always be differences, that doesn't mean culturally we can't evolve to a more harmonious partnership. As most marriages are already.

OK, come at me bros!

I had the same reaction. Why is it the woman's job to arrange for the yard service/groceries/nanny/maid? The man can't pick up the phone himself?

msgkings November 29, 2017 at 4:53 pm

I get that men and women are not identical, but it seems a little unfair to just assume that as if it were the way it must be.

In gender progressive Sweden, do more high income women stay at home to look after the children or fewer than, say, the US? How about compared to India or China? It looks a lot to me like high income women *want* to stay home and cook and have children. As this paper shows, when they can afford it they do so. To the point that Sweden has to force men out of the work force.

Personally I think that is the way it must be. That is the way it should be. But it is also clear that it is the way most women want it. Who are you to say otherwise?

Hazel Meade November 29, 2017 at 6:56 pm

These jobs will inevitably devolve to the person who cares the most - or who is the most motivated to get them done. That means women in the vast majority of cases. Men are happy to clean to what men consider a reasonable standard. Unless they have been in the Marine Corp for twenty years that is unlikely to be the same standard as their wives. That means the wife will have to insist that more cleaning is done. She can do this by nagging. Or she can do it herself. Or she can make sure she hires someone who will do what she wants.

Now that is certainly not all marriages or all women. But it is a pretty sizable chunk of them. Not to mention a lot of women are very good at shirking work and so will make sure they are in charge of the easy tasks while leaving the dirty, dangerous, tiring jobs to their husbands. Much like the rest of the work force really.

"that doesn’t mean culturally we can’t evolve to a more harmonious partnership. As most marriages are already."

Good for you, but a better strategy is to not marry a feminist.

"ood for you, but a better strategy is to not marry a feminist."

Or marry Super Mario. He doesn't have cooties.

"Or marry Super Mario. He doesn’t have cooties."

I can't. The Jews on the supreme court think it's fine for men to marry other men, but apparently me trying to marry my computer crosses some sort of line.

Do Jews have cooties?


It’s worth distinguishing between statements about how things are and statements about how things should be. I’m talking about how things are right now. In practice, most of the work of maintaining a family usually falls on the woman. Some of that is biology (try though I might, I can neither give birth nor nurse a baby), some is culture (I can certainly get up for middle of the night feedings), but both matter for predicting how changes to minimum wage, availability of services, etc., will affect fertility.

So observing facts about the world is sexist?

The "person who cares the most" model of household chores isn't the best way to run a marriage. In a group house setting that's a fast way to get your roommates to move out -- Don't do any chores any say that the mess doesn't bother you so you shouldn't be resposible for cleaning up.

I think the opposite story sounds just as plausible. Lots of nannying is done off or semi-off the books and a work schedule that could make determining hourly wages difficult. Higher minimum wage could very well increase the supply of people looking to be (grey market) nannies as a release valve for people who wouldn’t be hired at companies due to higher min wage.

So high minimum wage--> high cost of child care --> low fertility among the rich --> high investment in per child education among rich --> rich children are highly educated relative to poor --> increasing inequality

That's a bit of a stretch, and I'm not even a proponent of minimum wages.


Of course with higher minimum wages, could that mean poorer women will have more babies and I dont see how this reality taken into account. I suspect near minimum wage workers would be more baby income elastic than upper middle & upper class.

Maybe, but they already have a lot more children

Look up minority rates at some point. It is falling fast and is one of the primary reason for the fertility crash. In terms of Latino-Californians, we had a L-A baby boom in the 1980s and 1990s which change our demographics a lot more than immigration.

For the umpteenth time, fertility doesn't mean what you think it means. Fertility means being able to reproduce. Its opposite is infertility or sterility. When fertile organisms of the same species produce offspring it's called reproduction. What you're talking about here is not fertility but instead the "reproductive rate".

LOL no one cares when pedants whine.

The correct term for you would be ignoramus.

"Policies, such as the minimum wage, that affect the cost of marketization, have a large [negative] effect on the fertility and labor supply of high income women."

That sentence is saying that policies such as the minimum wage are decreasing the ability of women to conceive and bring to term offspring, which is what fertility is, except among those with a token grasp of English, such as yourself.

I care. Good point, chuck martel. Let's protect precision in language.

Protip for pedants: before you make an argument like this, try not to make one that can be simply disproven by pointing to a dictionary.

Ouch. Poor chuck.

I have the same peewee as chuck martel, and while I recognize our position is a losing one, your dictionary reference does nothing to disprove his point. If 40 percent use the language correctly, and 60 percent use it incorrectly, the dictionary will simply go with the way of the 60%. That's the reason the English language sucks spherical objects attached to the core of the body.

I don't even want to try to figure out what having "the same peewee as chuck martel" means.


I have the same peewee as chuck martel

Is this a source of conflict? What does Chuck think about it?

While it's not an identical example, this argument brings to mind the constant misuse of "begging the question", also misdefined in some dictionaries. In the case of "fertility" it's misuse here could be further complicated by the context. There is a correct word, the use of which eliminates misunderstanding. Using it in the wrong meaning creates confusion, isn't an example of style, and simply indicates bad vocabulary. Sixteenth century shepherds had a better grasp of their language than the pseudo-intellectuals inhabiting the MR commentariat.

You seem to be the only one who didn't understand it. Could it be that your regressive understanding of language is impairing your ability to thrive in the real world?

Americans talk themselves to death and we will bury themselves with their own confusion. We ahall prevail.

Words mean different things at different times. A simpler example:

Screw when used vis-a-vis a hardware store clerk means something different than screw when used discussing girlfriend with pals means something different when you have a pink slip in your hands.

The census bureau uses fertility rate.

Another government agency describes the income tax as "voluntary".

Not this again. I thought the Tax Protester movement had died out by now.

The payment of US income tax is voluntary, in that you fill out the forms yourself and send the IRS a check based on the result, rather than armed agents going house to house, figuring out what's owed, and taking it. It's voluntary in the same sense that the speed limit is voluntary - you drive yourself around, rather than being chauffeured by a cop who makes sure you drive 55.

I'm not sure that any government agency describes the income tax as "voluntary" in any case. I've only heard it from the Supreme Court decision Flora v. United States, which states that "our tax system is based upon voluntary assessment and payment and not upon distraint," and is usually where the confusion stems from.

I'm kidding about you being a tax protester, by the way. I assume you're being tongue in cheek. But just in case....

chuck's a Native American-flavored anarchist so he may actually be a 'taxes are theft' guy

So this makes Caribbean nannies too expensive for strivers? Cry me a river. Move to a cheaper city, or suck it up and pay your nanny a middle class salary. Or move a family member in.

Yep. It is a real problem if the smartest people aren't having kids, but the solution is not to make them richer at working people's expense.

It's beneficial to working people because they also get more work/pay

Why can’t she whine for having to pay more for a service? Everyone has the right to complain about high prices, except for high-striving women?

It depends on the supposed reason for the high price. Comparing about inflation or regulation is not the same as complaining about wages for the working poor being too high. It's even less sympathetic when combined with an argument that you "can't afford" something when you obviously can.

oddly silent around here on tax reform? why is that?

Good catch. Tyler has posted nothing about tax reform since...wait for it... November 27th!

Maybe he is bidding his time.

Cowen picked the wrong sentence from the abstract. From the abstract: "One economic theory builds on the empirically negative relationship between income and fertility observed in the post demographic transition era. It argues that rising inequality leads to greater differential fertility -- the fertility gap between rich and poor. In turn, greater differential fertility lowers the average education level, as the poor invest less in the education of their children. We show that the relationship between income and fertility has flattened between 1980 and 2010 in the US, a time of increasing inequality, as the rich increased their fertility." Before 1980, when inequality was low, rich people didn't have babies at the same rate as poor people, which increased the supply of poor babies relative to rich babies. Since 1980, however, as inequality has been rising rich people are having babies equal to or at higher rates than poor people, which has shifted the relative supply of babies produced by rich people and poor people. Rich people invest more in education for their children than poor people, so the increase in inequality since 1980, which has resulted in an increase in the relative supply of rich babies, is a good thing. My observation: some people will hang on the thinnest of threads to defend rising inequality.

It's more about the inefficiency of policies like the minimum wage than anything, Policy has real world effects on peoples' lives. Policymakers shouldn't forget that.

If babies of rich people are such a good thing, and babies of poor people are not, why not adopt a policy of reducing the number of poor people. That seems efficient to me. Here we are about to adopt a tax bill that will increase the wealth of rich people (who, I assume, will have even more babies) and decrease the wealth of poor people (which, I assume, might affect their propensity to produce babies but because there are so many poor people, that in the absolute sense poor people will continue to produce far more babies than rich people), and Cowen chooses to emphasize a connection to the minimum wage that strikes me as nonsense.

"If babies of rich people are such a good thing, and babies of poor people are not"

Interesting theory. I do think it's a shame for someone who wants a baby to not be able to have one because of government interference in their life and the replacement of voluntary and consensual interactions with involuntary and non-consensual interactions.

Meh. I'm generally libertarian but "I make six figures and can't afford to have more than one child" is not an argument that induces sympathy in me.

The fatal flaw in your argument is that you assume lower wealth of poor people = decrease number of poor babies)

One key characteristic of poverty is poor decision-making. There is no reason to think poor people will not have fewer kids when they become poorer. If they could think logically, they wouldn’t be having that many babies now.

True. A society where a defined elite class rules over the poor masses is the most efficient, as can be demonstrated by its common use throughout human history. The existence of the middle class is inefficient.

Now, this says nothing on how the elite should be chosen, and there have been many different systems used to try to determine how that elite should be discovered and chosen, from hereditary titles to a caste system to whoever manages to conquer. These systems work, but not particularly well--the elite needs to efficiently maximize the output of the society they manage, and so it's easy for the aforementioned systems to place the wrong person in power, causing huge internal inefficiencies to surface. As humanity started turning to finding people who are good at managing smaller societal units like companies, it became necessary to ensure a pool of people trying to demonstrate their talents--a middle class.

So, in the end, we have to decide: is the inefficiency inherent in the middle class a worthwhile cost for the identification of high-value elite? Or is there an even better way to choose this elite?

Nonsense. Voluntary interactions are not ruling over poor masses, nor are they inconsistent with a middle class. Far from it.

Minimum wage isn't the main driver of the high child care costs. Other regulations that have sprang up over the past 40 years are the culprits. Caring for children requires licenses, insurance, inspections, etc.

If working moms were free to leave their kids with anyone who wanted to look after a few kids ever day — perhaps stay-at-home moms with a couple of their own and a desire to supplement their income with four more — childcare would be pretty cheap.

Working parents would also benefit from the norms of several decades ago about how old kids needed to be to walk themselves home from school and entertain themselves until parents got home.

A lower minimum wage, by contrast, wouldn't move the needle much. Upper class women don't want to leave their kids with people who cannot command more than $5 an hour.

As per usual, the real culprit is living in a low trust society.

Low trust becomes litigious. It’s very very fucking expensive to live in a highly litigious society.

Another way of phrasing this would be: lawyers have become so dominant in law making/lobbying that child care has become prohibitively expensive.

All hail the Democrats: limit supply and subsidize demand. Our ticket to paradise.

Yes, this. The regulations and set-up costs involved in becoming a childminder are a serious impediment to would-be part-time childminders; and to anybody who wants to test the waters.

This paper posits that a falling minimum wage accounts for increases in fertility among the higher income.

You posit that increasing regulations over the same time period account for decreasing fertility among the higher income. However, fertility has actually been increasing, not decreasing, so that seems to throw a wrench into that?

Minimum wage turns out to not have very much impact on much of anything, even in terms of first order effects, since so few people are affected by it. Multiple steps removed I'm deeply skeptical that this is a first order or even a second order variable in high income women's labor force participation or child bearing. It might have some slight effect after you control for three or four other factors that are massively more significant, but the effect is almost surely too small to distinguish from noise in all but the best empirical samples.

Economics need to learn to trust their models less and to gain a better sense of the relative importance of the inputs in them to the outputs.

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For those who wish to blame "regulations" or the minimum wage or whatever evil perpetrated by government, what this study confirms is this: rich people cannot fuck their way out of a rising tide of poor people. There's too many of them, and their numbers are increasing.

The rich are increasing much faster, although not because of fucking

1. The amount of time and work required to be a high income woman is a deterrent to child bearing.

2. Birth control and RU-486 seem more likely culprits. Women make the choice.

3. This sentence can lead one to a dystopian conclusion.

Rising fertility between 1980 and 2010 is caused by a falling level of access to birth control?

"Rising fertility between 1980 and 2010 "

I'll have what he's smoking.

Among the high-income, smart guy. Did you look at the study at all?

I'm not sure what they are trying to argue.
Is it that the minimum wage increases childcare costs and therefore forces high-income women out of the job market, or forces them to forgo having children?
Last time I checked the average rate for a babysitter was already above minimum wage, so this seems unlikely. Also, if it was too high for high-income woemn to afford the effect should be even larger for low-income women. Plus the effects would seem to lean in opposite directions - EITHER the high income women forgoes having babies, in which case she stays in the job market, OR she drops out of the job market, in which case she is free to have babies. She's not going to drop out of the job market AND forgo having babies.

Low income women will drop out regardless, minimum wage won't affect them

Still, the more money you make the easier it is to afford childcare. The effect would be greatest for middle class earners just above the point where the cost of daycare becomes prohibitive, and then decline, high earners would be less affected.

"She’s not going to drop out of the job market AND forgo having babies."

Who said she was?

So, Tyler is arguing

For deductibility of child care expenses

And free day care.

Makes sense.

Why free day care?

Maybe people don't have children because they don't see the point of having a kid and then paying someone else to raise it.

If they are going to be at work all the time and their involvement is just writing a check to the nanny, maybe there isn't much of a reason to have a kid (or more than one.)

Maybe the cost of daycare/nannies isn't really the issue. It's wanting to do the work of raising children versus doing the work that has made you successful.

At this point, someone will say that when surveyed women will say they want children. We all say these kinds of things. For instance when people are asked if they want to get in better physical shape they typically say yes. For the average person, getting in better shape would require eating better and light/moderate exercise, which is significantly less effort than raising a child. Just because people say they would like to have a (or another)child, that doesn't mean that they really want to do the work of raising one.

Surveys that ask if women would have more children if their husband's helped out more are ridiculous. I'd run longer on the treadmill of my wife would move my legs for me. She doesn't want to go the gym; I don't want to deal with another child. Sure she wants another child, as long as I'm the one taking care of it.

Women are more likely to do home/child care because they are more likely to be the one in a marriage that wants those things (and those things done her way).

Humans seem to have approached the break even point between a creche system and individual effort. The ones either willing to pay in either career opportunity or cash for children are doing so and those who aren't, aren't.

I don't see why this results in hand wringing.

The last word on that particular subject:

In general people who fall in the category as successful high-earners have achieved that position in part by explicitly rejecting Spenler position being applicable to their life. Strong selection bias.

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