The Corner

Economy & Business

Kids and Money

(Michaela Rehle/Reuters)

There’s a lot to chew over in this critique of the child allowance by my American Enterprise Institute colleagues Naomi Schaefer Riley and Angela Rachidi. A lot of the recommendations they make – expanding school choice, loosening occupational licensing, and many more — are very good ideas. But the considerable merits of these proposals are not reasons to oppose an increase in the child tax credit or the creation of a child allowance.

And there is one passage where I think the authors go seriously off track.

Natalists assume people are not having more children because of financial constraints. They cite the gap between women’s “ideal fertility” — they never ask how many children men want — and the actual number of children they have. . . . [B]ut the reasons that they have fewer can hardly be reduced to a simple lack of affordability.

One of the main reasons behind the failure to achieve “ideal fertility” is that women wait longer than years past to marry and have children so that they can pursue education and career goals. Add to that the increasing poor health among prime-age people, and there are simply not as many fertile years left.

They continue in this vein for a while. But I don’t know of any advocate of a child allowance who believes that the decline of birthrates is solely the result of changed economic circumstances. For that matter, I don’t know of any advocate who believes that all of the changed economic circumstances that have reduced birthrates can or should be counteracted. We’re not going back to an agrarian economy or getting rid of modern financial markets.

What most of us believe, rather, is that the financial hit that having children entails has increased, that this increase is part of the reason for declining birthrates, that some government policies that would reduce that cost are worth supporting, and that such policies might close some of the gap between Americans’ ideal family sizes and their actual ones. All of which seems to me to be more reasonable than the beliefs my colleagues attribute to us.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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