Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Last week, Glenn Reynolds had this op-ed, "The Parent Trap: How Safety Fanatics Help Drive Down Birthrates," in the Wall Street Journal. Discussing (among other things) declining birth rates in developed (and other) countries, Reynolds notes:
Parenting was always hard work, of course. But aside from the economic payoffs, parents used to get a lot of social benefits, too. Yet in recent decades, a collection of parenting "experts" and safety-fascist types have extinguished some of the benefits while raising the costs, to the point where what's amazing isn't that people are having fewer kids, but that people are having kids at all.
He wonders also about the declining "prestige" of having children:
People in the suburbs buy SUVs instead of minivans not because they need the four-wheel-drive capabilities, but because the SUVs lack the minivan's close association with low-prestige activities like parenting, and instead provide the aura of high-prestige activities like whitewater kayaking. Why should kayaking be more prestigious than parenting? Because parenting isn't prestigious in our society. If it were, childless people would drive minivans just to partake of the aura.
In response, Ann Althouse had this post, asks how we can make parenting (in Reynolds's words) more "prestigious." She writes: "You can't make it cool to have kids just because we need kids. And the people with the kids aren't helping. Aren't they the ones who do the most to make folks without kids see raising kids as an unattractive proposition? It's a deep, deep problem, and it's not going to change."
Is this a problem? And, if it is, what (if anything) can law do?