A rant on fertility rates and other nonsense

Amid the great twitter shutdown of Thursday morning, I inadvertently got myself into my first twitter fight. I’m still not entirely sure how we got to the point of this person, previously unknown to me, accusing me of believing that condoms were not a form of conception, but I think it had to do with her not reading a post of mine from last year.

When it ended, we somehow were talking about the US fertility rate. I was trying to make that point that if only 1% of women of child-bearing age in the US were pregnant, trying to get pregnant or breastfeeding, we would have far fewer than 4 million babies born per year, while she wanted to insist the the right wing agenda was fighting abortion in order to increase the fertility rate of whites.

We were clearly talking past each other. Nonetheless, I thought of the conversation Saturday morning when a friend forwarded me this “the world is coming to an end because white women in the US aren’t having babies” article from the WSJ. There are so many things wrong with this piece, starting with the inherent racism (the fertility rate may be 14/1000 inhabitants, but it’s the immigrants who are having babies, which is going to wipe us out), to the misuse of statistics (I’m not sure how a slight increase in fertility constitutes “sinking like a stone,” but hey, I’m not a statistician or demographer or economist or anything…oh, wait…).

The set of solutions proposed by the author are equally problematic and short-sighted. While I admit that universities are in need of reform and education is too expensive, I am flummoxed by the observation that we should send fewer people to college. Apparently, fewer people (read: women) in college means people will have more babies which means more people paying taxes. Women leave college or the workforce to get pregnant or take lower wage jobs so that we can have more tax revenue? I’m confused. Despite the apparent appeal to the mercantilists who wanted to keep people poor so they would work hard, it goes entirely counter to his contention that we need people to be innovative and entrepreneurial. How do you expect people to be innovative if you don’t let them receive training in what’s already been done? Besides, I think the idea that we’re innovative because our population is growing is backwards. We don’t need more people in order to be more innovative, we need more efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars to incentivize discovery, to provide opportunities, and to care for people who cannot take care of themselves.

Further, nowhere does the author promote pro-child policies that don’t utilize the tax code. There’s no talk of parental leave or support (such as expanding the Family Medical Leave Act, which just turned 20), child care, or other pro-parent policies. There’s no talk of improving public schools, so that having a child in a place like Chicago or New York isn’t subject to the constraint (held for some, not all) to be able to pay for private school.

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2 thoughts on “A rant on fertility rates and other nonsense

  1. The whole “how-do-you-hike-the-fertility-rate?” question has to be one of the least mysterious mysteries in public policy: make it easier for women to organize their working lives around having a baby and women have more babies.

    Here in Quebec, the hiked the child tax credit, expanded access to subsidized daycare (final cost to parents = $7/day), increased paid maternity leave (12 months for moms, 4 months for their partners and a further 2 months that can be taken by one or the other, all at 70% pay) and encouraged flex-time and part-time job creation.

    Result? http://www.globalmontreal.com/Pages/Story.aspx?id=6442650204

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