Fertility and Choices

James blogged this week about fertility in rich countries. I’m presenting an anecdote that was interesting to me in light of the data he presented on college. He presented a “J-curve” demonstrating that the highest fertility rate (2.2 children per woman) occurs among women who did not complete high school in the US. Women who had 4 years of college are collectively at below-replacement fertility. Women with more than 16 years of school, meaning they have an advanced degree, are closer to having 2 children on average, although still below replacement.

According to Hazan and Zoabi (2015), “By substituting their own time for market services to raise children and run their households, highly educated women are able to have more children and work longer hours.” At least some of that J-curve can be explained by the fact that the most highly educated women have more money than the woman who are at only 15 years of schooling. So, the highly educated woman can buy childcare for multiple children in the US. (Having two kids in full-time daycare usually costs more than $20,000 per year).

I saw a discussion on Twitter this week that made me think about the marginal choice to have children and how that relates to education. A journalist who lives in New York City tweeted that, “there is literally nothing encouraging me to have a kid right now in the US even though I am a prime candidate on paper”. Another woman replied that she, similarly, feels like she could have a child right now but is leaning toward not doing it. She explained, “I’m torn because part of me believes in helping raise the next generation to be conscious citizens and all that, but another part of me thinks climate change has already claimed our future and it’s futile?!” 

This sounds like the position of a college-educated “global citizen”. The way I relate it to James’s post is that I think someone who never went to college is less likely to hold her normative view of parenting.

I’m reading the Theory of Moral Sentiments. Here is what Adam Smith wrote about about global citizens mindset or what he called “universal benevolence”.

This universal benevolence, how noble and generous soever, can be the source of no solid happiness to any man who is not thoroughly convinced that all the inhabitants of the universe… are under the immediate care and protection of that great… all-wise Being… To this universal benevolence, on the contrary, the very suspicion of a fatherless world, must be the most melancholy of all reflections…


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