Tuesday, October 6, 2009

We just call the baby "FICA"

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Jonathan V. Last has a great column about the economics of large families which uses the example of the Duggar family as its jumping off point.

It is almost too good to excerpt, so go read the whole thing. But here are a few bits that I found particularly appealing:
The family tends toward plain clothes, warehouse-club portions and the New Testament. And yet the discomfort with the Duggars is not merely an expression of class snobbery. It has partly to do with their hyperfertility. There is a creeping anti-natalism in America that has made having large families a radical act.
If my experiences with a family of six children are typical, anti-natalism has left the "creeping" stage and gone "rampant" and what constitutes a "large" family has been defined downward quite dramatically.
Toward the end of the 19th century, industrialization pulled children out of the work force, limiting the contributions they could make to the family. Then Social Security, and later Medicare, began to give to the state the responsibilities that children once had for the financial care of aging parents.

Whatever its merits, the welfare state is a disincentive to childbearing.
The author goes on to cite the often quoted Department of Agriculture statistics about the cost of raising children. He also includes the important, but often overlooked, cost of foregone wages by a parent that chooses not to work outside the home.

He also argues that people should stop dismissing large families like the Duggars and learn to appreciate them. If not for the right reasons, then at least for their own self-interest; today's children become tomorrow's taxpayer after all.

The Duggars have mortgaged their financial futures for their children. Yet we're the ones who will benefit. In 1940 there were 160 workers paying the tab for each person collecting Social Security. By 2006, there were just 3.3 workers supporting each pensioner. The Social Security Administration estimates that by 2034, there will be only 2.1 workers for each person collecting a government retirement check.

In an era when it is rare for a bourgeois couple to have even three children, the Duggars are helping subsidize our retirement at considerable costs to themselves. Instead of mocking them, we ought to thank them.

1 comment:

Dad29 said...

If you think it's bad now, look at what were (Federal tax) deductions and credits for children BEFORE GWB's first term....