Want people to more eagerly dive into baby-making? Here's a tip: Help 'em take care of the little suckers.
According to the Wall Street Journal, a new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development examines the effect of public policy on birthrates. While some countries give families direct payments or tax incentives to have more kids, or offer subsidies to help women stay home, others subsidize childcare so that parents can go back to work. This last turns out to be the most effective. Writes the Journal's Sebastian Moffett, "the policies that seem to have the greatest effect on birth rates are the ones aimed at helping women combine career and family, rather than those trying directly to boost the birth rate." Or, as Olivier Thevenon, lead author of the OECD report, puts it, "Investment in child care has more effect on fertility. Subsidizing births is not so effective."
It's interesting that families seem to respond more to childcare help than to free money, which they could spend however they wanted. Of course, it would be helpful to know how much free money we're talking about; childcare is expensive, and maybe would-be parents are just doing the math. Then again, it's possible that what really makes people willing to have more kids is the security of knowing they can keep living their lives. Obviously having another child is a big change, but it may be easier to imagine making the adjustment if you know you won't have to give up your career. And while some parents relish the chance to stay home with their kids, perhaps the key is making this available as a choice, not a necessity. People may be a lot more excited about having children if they feel like they have options for taking care of them.
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