26 Comments

There are already some solutions, but they are expensive to individual parents. The simplest solution is school vouchers, because they allow high fertility people to avoid the scalar expense of educating many children without giving up their cultural values (public school). It's marginal cost is $0.

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Dec 12, 2023·edited Dec 12, 2023

I have three suggestions:

1) Legalize and culturally normalize polygamy. There is a growing lack of eligible bachelors to marry for women with increasing levels of education and income. Women, in general, do not want to marry a man she sees as "below" her, and it is impossible to shame or force her to do so. Allowing, or even encouraging, very successful/high status men to take multiple wives (as long as they can afford it) could help to activate this pool of women. Leading to more children, to less dysgenic family formations (extremely unhelpful that the more intelligent a woman is, the less children she has), and encourage the most successful men to have more children. It will not have any additional corrosive effect on society in the form of left-over men, since these women go from being single. And reconceptualizing polygamy in a modern setting does not have to result in a system that is disadvantageous to women.

2) There is a problem, than children are disenfranchised. Children should be given voting rights from birth, to be administered by the parents until they come of age. With an emphasis on the parents that they should be strongly encouraged to considering the long term implication of the voting record of the candidates they support. Would increase the voting mass of parents and put more political emphasis on their problems and concerns.

3) Parents should be given a percentage of the tax paid by their grown children. It used to be that parents benefitted from the work of the children, now all that goes to the state, and the parents are left with all the cost. Some of this benefit should be paid back to the parents. Will also encourage parents to raise good hardworking members of society. For instance, if a child pays $30,000 in tax/yr. - the parents should be given $3,000 (10%) of this, or 20% or whatever. The economic burden of having children would be lessened, since parents wouldn't have to save up for retirement.

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Sorry if you've discussed this elsewhere already, but a straightforward way to throw money at the problem would be to fund the development of improved fertility technology, particularly IVG (in vitro gametogenesis). In most countries, the fertility shortfall below replacement is not all that large, and it's conceivable that revolutionary fertility technology could close most or all of the gap.

I guess a counterargument could be that IVF has not had such an impact, but IVF is bad in so many ways (physically taxing, often ends in failure, only somewhat addresses age issues, etc.). With IVG, you'd get as many embryos as you need, at any age, with negligible physical cost.

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Also, I suspect that there will be resistance to the subsidy approach because it is far more effective in increasing the fertility of the poor.

Whether admitted or not, I think lots of people only want to increase the fertility of the better off parts of society.

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My understanding is that there is actual evidence on this and that countries have gotten some significant changes for merely offering relatively small amounts of money paid directly on birth.

The problem is mostly political. The most effective solutions are direct payment on birth because most people aren't looking that far out into the future. Unfortunately, as that doesn't reward the people who have already had kids with tax deductions etc (good thing for efficiency) they aren't as likely to support them.

More generally, I suspect there is just going to be reluctance to pay people for having children. Look at the conversation around welfare queens pumping out kids. However, I suspect that anything but immediate payment at birth will be (as I understand the studies suggest) much less effective.

(note I'm assuming for this puposes it's genuinely necessary to intervene to increase fertility even though I'm not yet convinced)

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India's experience suggests that measures to reverse the fertility decline will run into serious limits. Those who would like to significantly increase fertility rates should not be optimistic.

Compared to the West, India is far less wealthy, far less gender-equal, much more religious and increasingly less secular, and remains more rural. Women's labor force participation is stagnant (and according to some studies, declining).

Middle- and upper-middle class families employ household help that dramatically reduce parenting effort. They all employ a "staff" of cooks, cleaners, and drivers; many also employ nannies. Grandparents continue to help raise their grandkids and often even live with them. The phenomenon of "helicopter" parenting in the upper-middle class is weaker compared to the US. Overall, parenting effort is significantly lower compared to the West. When many immigrant Indians in the US speak of moving back to India, this is consistently the #1 reason they cite why they'd like to move back.

India also has strong local subcultures (regional, religion or caste-based) which are, appearances to the contrary, not as connected to or influenced by global culture.

While average age for marriage has gone up, most people continue to get married by their late 20s. Arranged marriage rates remain high and parents continue to help kids choose mates.

Despite all this, fertility rates have fallen precipitously to ~2.1 because of a sustained decades-long "we two, ours two" campaign that has transformed the culture around family and children.

Sure, strong financial incentives could reverse the decline but it will not get fertility to anywhere near the levels that pro-natalists would like to.

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Jan 15·edited Jan 15

Re Rune’s comment of Dec 12:

Interesting suggestions. 1) might indeed help the fertility problem, but has so many other negatives with it that I’d strongly oppose it (as would most people, I daresay)

2) is an excellent idea well worth doing, and not one I’d heard before. Other than the increased potential for fraud, seems like all upside and little downside

3) is intriguing, and I agree would help. The implementation might be harder, and politically it would likely be difficult to get passed, but those are very different issues.

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$300,000 is enough to pay an ivy league student for egg extraction, ivf, screening, surrogacy services (outside the US), and there would likely be many eggs left over. What's more, once the healthy baby exists, the people who brought it into existence can charge a pretty hefty adoption fee (~$300,000?) that many fine involuntarily childless couples would gratefully pay. This is such a win win win win win that it deserves to be in the Overton window, if not here then at least in Korea. Scaled up, the costs would go way down.

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Dec 11, 2023·edited Dec 11, 2023

There's a lot riding here on the premise that Christianity "took over" the Roman Empire by outbreeding the competition, which seems... debatable, to put it mildly.

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