An Economist Makes a Case for Having Children

There is no "moral compass" app.

The Wall Street Journal June19-20 edition showcased an article by Bryan Caplan, an economist at George Mason University, who makes the case for having children.  He is also writing a book on the subject due out in 2011.  Although I wholeheartedly agree with his conclusion that children are wonderful and people should have more of them, I take issue with his analysis.

He looks at data from the General Social Survey (Univ of Michigan’s National Opinion Research Center):

A closer look at the GSS also reveals that child no.1 does almost all the damage.  Otherwise identical people with one child instead of none are 5.6 percentage points less likely to be very happy.  Beyond that, additional children are almost a happiness free lunch.  Each child after the first reduces your probability of being happy by a mere .6 percentage points.

So, because having an additional child makes you less happy by a much smaller amount then the first child, you should have more children ?  It gets worse when he delves into the world of behavioral genetics:

Parents also strive to turn their children into smart and happy adults, but behavioral geneticists find little or no evidence that their effort pays off.


Behavioral geneticists also find that the effect of upbringing on morals is quite superficial.  Parents have a strong effect on which religion and political party their kids identify with, but little on their adult behavior or outlook.

He makes the strong point that “childless and single is far inferior to married with children.”  But, it is his reasoned conclusion that parents should relax and not push themselves so hard when it comes to raising their children (based on geneticists’ evidence) where he goes off the rails.  Don’t incentives matter ?  Look around….we have a 62% (perhaps higher) divorce rate, godless schools, children playing video games until dinner and watching CSI Special Victims Unit before bed.  Should we relax and and have another kid because they’re not as much work as you think as Mr. Caplan suggests ?  Probably not given the neglect exhibited by parents today.

I had my children because they are blessings from God entrusted to me to raise as godly servants to their family and society.  If what we do by homeschooling, sacrificing a second full income, setting a good example by not watching much tv, not spending money frivolously on ourselves for surround sound, video games, movies, will have little impact on how our children turn out then we are dumb as bricks for believing what the Bible directs us to do.

Mr. Caplan has taken scientific evidence and married it with economics to show that if you have a kid, you won’t be made that much worse off.  Well, that’s not going to appeal to the hearts and minds of the millions of women who need to get their ovens fired up to help turn the tide of Demographic Winter.  To appeal to the heart, perhaps an appeal to….dare I say it….God….would be the first step.  Without God at the center of family creation, women are very unlikely to help create an uptick in the fertility rate.  Mr. Caplan, have a little faith.