Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bryan Caplan's "Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids"

Bryan Caplan is a Professor of Economics at George Mason University and blogger at EconLog, one of the Wall Street Journal's Top 25 Economics Blogs. He lives in Oakton, Virginia, with his wife and their three children.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids begins with a comparison of war deaths in 1950 versus 2005:
In 1950, American families were losing their sons to the Korean War. In 2005, American families were losing their sons—and occasionally daughters—to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A cynic might say, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” At least from the American point of view, however, he’d be wrong. Since 1950, war has radically changed: It isn’t that dangerous anymore. The 1950’s fatality rate was more than fifty times as high as the fatality rate of 2005. In 1950, parents really had to worry that the government would force their sons to join the army and send them overseas to die. Now the soldiers are volunteers, and they almost always come home alive.
I then turn to risk of murder and suicide, and end with a table comparing child safety in 1900 versus 1950. The topics are grim, but my message is upbeat: 2005 is a much safer time for kids than 1950, but 1950 was much better than 1900.

My Page 99 hardly reveals “the whole” of my book. It doesn’t even mention my main thesis: That parents endure a lot of needless unhappiness because they greatly overestimate their long-run effect on the kind of adults their children become. It doesn’t mention my main evidence: adoption and twin studies. Nevertheless, Page 99 is supporting evidence for one of the “selfish reasons to have more kids” I advertise in the title: Parents are needlessly anxious because kids today are safer than ever. If daily life looked like the evening news and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, being a parent would be terrifying. Fortunately, the numbers tell a far more optimistic story. So relax, lighten up, and remember that there’s never been a better time to bring a child into the world.
Learn more about Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue