Baby Bumps and Birth Rates
Samuel Goldman responds to a piece by Matt Yglesias who responded to Ross Douthat’s lament at the declining birth rate. Douthat mentioned that policies in Sweden and France have provided evidence that supports for middle class families with kids has helped increase the birth rate.
Goldman points out that even with inducements and supports on the order of 0.8% of GDP in Sweden ($120 billion per year, at the U.S.’s scale), the birth rate is still far below replacement level, at 1.8 rather than 2.1. Goldman reiterates Douthat’s point that cultural roadblocks are more important to the conversation than the power of inducements and incentives:
But there’s not much government can do to encourage people who regard children as a burden to produce them. Only a major cultural change could do that. In this respect, the demographic future of Western societies may depend on the fate of their religious traditions much more than on their tax codes. I’m not holding my breath for neo-liberals to acknowledge that.
Religious tradition plays a big part, for sure. But for some reason Facebook preggo photos popped into my mind. I hate these pictures, the ones where chicks show off their baby bumps on their Facebook pages. But I do recognize the positive aspects of it, even if I lament the gimmickry. It’s the baby cult, and it is a way to organically reinforce reproduction. By making it about being part of a club you get a bunch of yea-saying wannabe moms to rally around each other and throw “likes” at each others inane bump pics and then a lot of the other women will want to join in on the reindeer games. That’s one difference that probably is correlated with more religiosity in America. Motherhood is passe in Europe, and in many American quarters too.