“What to Expect When No One’s Expecting”

04.19.2013, 1:52 PM

Anyone in the New York area might want to check out this event next Wednesday with Jonathan Last, author of ”What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: Babies, Economics, and Why the Only Thing Worse Than Having Kids Is Not Having Them.”


11 Responses to ““What to Expect When No One’s Expecting””

  1. Philip Cohen says:

    Can’t make it. Here some things I’d like to bring up at the talk, though:

    http://familyinequality.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/jonathan-last/

  2. Diane M says:

    I don’t think this is as much of a problem for the U.S. We have a fairly healthy birth rate and we are a culture that welcomes immigrants.

  3. Mont D. Law says:

    As Phil so aptly put it, Last is not endorsing barefoot and pregnant, but he could live with it.

    (But that he suggests we have more children — without taking steps to reconcile our endemic work-family conflicts and persistent gender imbalances (he’s not advocating universal childcare or healthcare, better welfare, paid family leave or a shorter workweek) – means that even if he’s not arguing for a return to barefoot-and-pregnant status, he’s at least willing to live with it.)

  4. La Lubu says:

    he’s not advocating universal childcare or healthcare, better welfare, paid family leave or a shorter workweek

    Let’s not forget public investment in public schools, park districts, state parks and other family-friendly “commons” areas. I get the impression that Last is talking out of both sides of his mouth—he believes that the all the costs and logistics of raising a family should be borne by individuals and tailored to their individual circumstances….and then is upset when people are doing just that: limiting the size of their families to that which they can handle within their limited resources.

    If he wants more people to have larger families, then he needs to advocate for public policy that puts more resources in the hands of working families—and not just economic resources like pay, benefits, affordable housing, healthcare, but logistical resources like daycare, flextime, paid sick leave, paid vacation time—the things that make it possible to spend time with one’s family members without economic risk.

    And that would require a wealth shift from the top to the bottom—which is why we aren’t seeing it. Last: ever hear the expression “you get what you paid for”? Well, limit the resources for families and people react by limiting family size. Real wages for working class families have stagnated for over forty years, and fewer working families have benefits, family-friendly work policies and/or any negotiating power at work. Profit is privatized and risk is socialized—so when profiteers lose money, working-class taxpayers are the ones fronting the bills for them.

    Tl/dr; family size is not your real problem. Capitalism is.

  5. Diane M says:

    To be fair to Last, he advocates some policies that would benefit families.

    He talks about raising the child tax credit and/or get rid of payroll taxes for parents while they are raising children. If you had three children, you could end up paying no Social Security and Medicare taxes for 18+ years.

    He wants to decrease college costs and the cost of housing. His suggestions on how to do this are more conservative and I don’t think his suggestion for cutting college costs makes any sense, but he’s on the right track. If families needed less for college and housing, they might have more children.

    Last also makes the point that societies that spend plenty of money on social welfare programs have not been able to increase their birth rate.

    “but logistical resources like daycare, flextime, paid sick leave, paid vacation time—the things that make it possible to spend time with one’s family members without economic risk…”

    If we are serious about making is possible to spend time with your children without economic risk, we have to support moms who leave the paid labor force and/or work part-time while raising children. This is a group of women who we know takes a hit in their pay and wage-earning ability. It’s a group of women who are at risk if they lose their partner.

    Not only is it more fair to include these women in your push to make it possible to spend time with your family, it is the only way you are ever going to get to having the benefits you want for moms who earn money full-time.

  6. Diane M says:

    So, basically, I don’t think we need to worry that much about the American birth rate. We replace ourselves fairly well and the number of people we have in the world is already quite high.

    However, if anyone wants to increase the birth rate, here are some policies I would recommend:

    Pay women to take care of their children. Pay them for a full-time week until the children go to kindergarten. Then pay them part-time.

    Give a mom who has stayed home with her children help getting back into paid work, including low-cost education, job counseling, and hiring preferences.

    Build community centers to support parents and make full-time parenting more fun. Have a place moms can bring their small kids to play with other kids. Provide support groups for new moms where they can make their own friends. Provide some respite care for new moms.

    Make sure there are plenty of jobs that can support a family.

    Subsidize young couples. Give them low-cost education and cheap housing. Provide subsidies for married couples and married couples with children.

    Get rid of debts, particularly debt from going to school.

  7. La Lubu says:

    He talks about raising the child tax credit and/or get rid of payroll taxes for parents while they are raising children. If you had three children, you could end up paying no Social Security and Medicare taxes for 18+ years.

    And what happens when you’re old and trying to live off your Social Security…and there’s a lot less of it? “Reduced benefits for all” is just another fast-track to poverty. Pensions are rapidly disappearing, so Social Security is going to have to become the de-facto pension plan for most USians. We need increased benefits, not decreased ones. If we’re going to invest in families, we need to actually invest in families; not just shift the timing of their struggle. (or not—the cost “savings” by abolishing payroll taxes could be easily eaten up by eldercare for the parents of these young families whose Social Security benefits have been reduced in order to “pay” for those “cost savings”.)

  8. mythago says:

    Pay women to take care of their children.

    I hope you meant “parents”. I don’t think it’s a very good system that shoves mothers onto the ‘mommy track’ whether they want it or not, and puts even more pressure on fathers to choose job over family.

  9. Diane M says:

    @Mythago – “Pay women to take care of their children.

    I don’t think it’s a very good system that shoves mothers onto the ‘mommy track’ whether they want it or not, and puts even more pressure on fathers to choose job over family.”

    Nonsense. Paying women to take care of their children doesn’t force anyone to do anything. Women who would rather do other work would still get paid.

    “I hope you meant “parents”.”

    Yes and no. We could have a system that allows couples to choose which parent stays home with the kids. However, I think that moms would mostly be the ones who made that choice.

    Sometimes I get frustrated with gender neutral language. Who right now earns less because they take care of children? Moms. Who would benefit if mother-work was respected, supported, and paid? Moms.

    There are at-home dads, but they are such a small group that the NIH study of child development and child care couldn’t even get a large enough sample to include them in the study.

  10. mythago says:

    @Diane M: A system that pays and encourages mothers, only, to stay home with their children is not one that is going to exactly pump up the number of stay-at-home fathers, is it?

    It’s one thing to recognize that women are much more likely to limit their paid work or leave their jobs to take care of their children. It’s another to treat this as the proper order of things that should be encouraged while ignoring fathers.

  11. Diane M says:

    Mythago, I’m fine with paying either parent to stay home with their kids.

    At the same time, I have no goal to pump up the number of full-time fathers. I don’t see it as a problem if mothers choose to do the child care more than fathers.

    (I’ve also recently decided that I don’t want to use the term stay-at-home to describe people who do child care for their own children. It is insulting and inaccurate.)