Kids: a cost-benefit analysis

by Jess

Bryan Caplan has a great article in The Wall Street Journal about the social science — and the economics — of having kids.  He concludes with two lessons we’ve learned from research: “First, parents’ sacrifice is much smaller than it looks, and childless and single is far inferior to married with children. Second, parents’ sacrifice is much larger than it has to be.”

That’s a load off!  On the latter point, he says:

If you think that your kids’ future rests in your hands, you’ll probably make many painful “investments”—and feel guilty that you didn’t do more. Once you realize that your kids’ future largely rests in their own hands, you can give yourself a guilt-free break. If you enjoy reading with your children, wonderful. But if you skip the nightly book, you’re not stunting their intelligence, ruining their chances for college or dooming them to a dead-end job. The same goes for the other dilemmas that weigh on parents’ consciences. Watching television, playing sports, eating vegetables, living in the right neighborhood: Your choices have little effect on your kids’ development, so it’s OK to relax.

I tend toward a natural parenting style: fresh, healthy food; toys that don’t require batteries; playing outdoors when it’s not 1 million degrees; etc.  But I’m pretty relaxed as a parent overall.  I haven’t (so far) suffered much in the way of self-doubt or excessive worry, despite my parents’ forecast of doom and gloom.

And with Caplan’s research, I can rest easy knowing that my kid is responsible for himself.  In fact, when he  turns 1, I’m going to make him pay rent.  I’m tired of supporting his lazy ass.

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