A friend who is visiting from LA last night noted that they had stopped and two and his wife got her tubes tied. That he didn't know a single person with more then two children, and lots of people with none. He feels that the generation younger than his is on track for much lower TFR than his generation, and that seems born out in the data. TFR has collapsed rapidly and even fairly recent data is growing obsolete.

My friend is pretty well off, runs his own large business, and his wife is an accomplished Harvard grad. As Elon Musk notes, every conversation like this sounds like the opening scene of Idiocracy. They clearly could have more kids comfortably from an economics/housing perspective, but it would crimp their lifestyle, it's not in keeping with their peer groups social practices, and they have no cultural/religious/philosophical reason to have more kids.

I suppose that lower housing cost, which is harder than people think to achieve, might help on the margin. But it doesn't seem to be driving why people like this aren't having kids.

By contrast, I know a lot of people who have 3+ kids. They have worse financials then my friend, and some have had to deal with children with disabilities (friends we saw on Saturday their oldest had a stroke at birth and some disability on one side of the body, they went on to have two more). A lot more announced pregnancies at the end of last week, perhaps buoyed by Roe v Wade to shout it to the world.

But they are religious, and they belong to a religious peer group that values children.

On the margin I guess lower housing cost might help, but I doubt there is a silver bullet that can really change housing costs that much. My friends would never raise their kids in a bad neighborhood or send them to bad schools, and to a degree housing not being affordable is what keeps out the bad people.

Public policy wise what would help the most, by far, is no strings school vouchers. A lot of these people don't like what they see in public school, but nobody can afford to send 3+ kids to private school. Schooling is a linear expense, and linear expenses kill fertility.

It would also help to clean up the streets and make public life less obviously hostile to their values.

Really though I don't think there is a solution to the fertility crisis beyond a cultural change towards family values. You can try to throw a child tax credit at it but when push comes to shove people need to feel like getting up all night for a screaming infant is what they want to do with their lives.

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Those two maps do not look alike at all. Just glancing across the Nordic countries, Norway, Sweden and Finland have essentially the same housing % but range across the middle three of five birth rate categories. Denmark has super low living with parents rates but only second tier TFR.

Italy's kids with parents % is the same as Romania, but their TFRs are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Spain and Chechia are a similar case. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, all buck the trend. Large swaths of central Europe have roughly the same TFR but wildly different % of kids living with parents.

I expect that if you actually plotted out the numbers here you would find there is essentially no correlation, or at least a very weak one. Hanania is prone to seeing what he wants to see in numbers.

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Living in the basement seems to be just cultural / economical. Scandinavia has low fertility rates but young adults with no intent of having children move out. Romania has a high fertility and people live with their parents.

Israel has a very how fertility (3.0) with very heavy zoning regulations and housing prices. People live with their parents with their spouses and children or live in tiny apartments (some are converted storage rooms).

Incentives matter and zoning is bad, but I am not sure that is what we see in these maps.

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I forget where I read it, but something like "no nation has successfully educated its women without also getting on a path to oblivion". I'm not sure housing costs are the main driver of this. South Korea is at 0.9, universities are going bankrupt, big companies like Samsung complain that there is no way that they can hire enough people. That's probably the most extreme case I know of.

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I did a quick graph and it doesn’t look very (negatively) correlated. I got -27.6% correlation, 95% confidence interval (-.59,.12). Someone could check if they get the same numbers.

Mostly, I’m “offended” by the data presentation—the maps are not a good way to show the correlation. The story you tell about the data does make sense, so I’m surprised the relationship is so weak.

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"This roughly checks out:"

Surprisingly weak correlation there. Romania (historically extremely low TFR) higher than every one of the Nordics.

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Jun 28, 2022·edited Jun 29, 2022

Some great points and comments below. I’d posit that it’s a bit like a perfect storm.

Here in the UK many things are stacked against having children and having more children.

(Nice) home rental costs are a huge factor plus lost are small units and short term tenancies. Ensuring it’s hard to save deposits to buy a house and equally difficult to start a family in due to money and space.

New houses are tiny and very expensive. Not lending themselves to a growing family.

Stamp duty restricts buyers. Essentially a tax on buying a house constrains the money and desire to trade up (think £15k tax bill for my next step up to a decent size family house where I’d want more than 2 kids).

Cars and car seats. A decent car for more than 2 kids. Not that many around.

Each kid needs a car seat. Each car needs one for each. Huge costs and constraint on bringing another child into the family.

Schools and nursery places restrict family growth. The lower chance that your children will all get into the same local schools or decent ones. There is no guarantee.

Nursery the same.

Then the costs. Childcare is a mortgage level event for many years if you have more than one child. Yes, you might not have more than 2 in childcare at any one time. But for 2 children think £1k a month.

Schools cost money also. School dinners, clubs, uniforms, trips. I sometimes feel like Al Bundy on the opening credits of “married with children” (great classic show btw).

I think you/we get the point. Some policies can help here. Build more family homes. Reduce or remove stamp duty. Deregulate some aspects of childcare. Transport and transport policies. Others are things we need to adjust our life to.

Kids make life worth living. So more kids in my view correlates with more living.

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In addition to the housing, cost of childcare in the United Kingdom is INSANE. Most parents have to go part time, rely on a relative or go into debt for early years childcare funding. This is despite the Government offering some free hours for the early years.

The childcare providers themselves struggle to get by so often add in additional charges - if you want your child to be fed during the day you pay, if you want them to have certain activities you pay, if you want them to go on a trip you definitely pay as well as any additional overtime etc..

You still see some high fertility areas in parts of the UK - mainly the poorer areas, stay at home mum on benefits, overcrowded house, poor health, education etc..

On housing, individuals in the UK can rarely afford a mortgage because of the 'affordability checks', in the majority of cases two wages are required.

So those who are single are at the remit of landlords who often price their rent higher than the average mortgage payment (as they use buy-to-let schemes). The couples who are getting into housing, are likely to be couples for life!! Their mortgage status depends on it!!

Finally we have a generation that grew up seeing debt and poverty, seeing their parents struggle, so they want stability before they'd even consider children....Stability that's quite challenging to find amidst pandemics and inflation.

Cheaper housing is a good start - if it goes to the right sector of society :)

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I wonder if this holds up historically. In ages past, I think children lived with their parents for a long time but then part of the marriage process was the new couple moving into their own home.

I'd also be interesting in comparing this with, say, Asian cultures. My impression is having multi-generational homes is still pretty common., specifically Indian families. That being said, it might be that the kids move out for a while, then mom or dad moves in with the kids when they get older and/or their spouse passes.

There might also be an aspect of sexual squeamishness. Who wants to have sex with a spouse with your in-laws down the hall? But I'm not sure if that's just a western cultural inhibition. Perhaps there are other cultures where this is not a big deal. To be honest, I wonder how things worked out until 100 years ago. I wonder how they got to 10 kids when a family lived in a two room cabin on the plains.

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Jun 27, 2022·edited Jun 27, 2022

My experience from living in Utah the latter half of the 20th century was urban sprawl or "fill-in" was the natural consequences of pro-development policies. As the population grew builders would convert farm land to new development tracts. Home buyers had the choice of buying a more expensive existing home closer to the existing population center or of buying a less expensive home further out. But as people bought up new homes the population center changed.

Pro-development policies tend to be very successful at increasing the population and at driving economics.growth. They have the negative of creating urban sprawl. After leaving Utah the urban sprawl has gotten much worse, so much so I would not move back to where I used to live.

Where I live now in the DMV metro area is next to woods in a very low density neighborhood. I love it! But if the zoning were changed and the housing density tripled I would hate it. It would likely cause me to move again.

Urban sprawl is ugly. But it also enables many more people to afford housing and to enjoy the financial gain of home appreciation. Ultimately, I side with pro-development policies and wish government was more interested in lowering the cost of developing housing - in particular the costs of water & septic / sewer.

I am a benevolent Nimby. I don't want my good thing spoiled but I would rather see more people able to afford a green lawn and picket fence, and if I feel the growth is too suffocating, I will then move.

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The disintegrating culture is another reason people do not want to have kids.

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"Deregulating housing won’t just solve the housing problem. It will make major dents in almost every widely-lamented social problem."

Yep. Likely huge impacts on labor mobility and income inequality also.

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How can I, a common plebe, convince a largely statist and indifferent population? I have spent so much time reading books and learning economics through online courses, but now realize why it's called "rational" ignorance. I can't do anything with my information.

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Hmm is that correlation really that strong? Eyeballing it isn't striking. France, Greece, Italy fit proposed trend, but Romania and Finland are the reverse, so, well, someone should make a graph or something but I have to shower.

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I think one piece that's being missed by the "but what about high-fertility states where people live with parents?" comments here is the cost of childcare.

The cost of childcare is also driven, like any other labor-intensive business, by the cost of labor -- which is also impacted by the cost of housing. But it's also culture: in some cultures, living with grandparents is a solution to *both* housing *and* childcare, and can be a huge win -- but that's obviously only true in places where living with parents is *not* anti-romantic.

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Time for some polygamy and polyandry to reduce the burden of childbearing?

Yes plz.

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