Hey Read This: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids by Bryan Caplan

Posted on June 6, 2011

Yes, overprotective parents ARE stressing out too much.

Caveat: I am an unmarried male with a non-existent desire to have children. So imagine my surprise when my girlfriend dropped a book about having children into my lap. Fortunately, I quickly realized it was written by George Mason Economist Bryan Caplan. So I knew it would be up my alley. I’ll take anything empirical. So buckle up for a skeptic’s view of “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids.”

Caplan opens with this stunner (paraphrased): Well, no one ever regrets having kids! More specifically, only 6% of the population regrets having kids. A solid point, and quite central to his theme: That the population tends to be very nearsighted and selective when they think about parenthood. When someone gets knocked up, all we say are “Whelp get ready for poop and not sleeping.”

The fact is that, when all is said and done and you are holding your grandchild, the investment definitely pays off. Children are only babies for a couple years. After that they play with LEGOS and can even be fun to hang out with.

Then he follows it up with one of the most telling chapters I have ever read. Parents are obsessed with moulding their child so they grow up wonderful. Well, what if I told you that that was all in vain? Caplan cites a series of longitudinal studies comparing twins and adopted children. Turns out that, no matter how hard you parent, genetics are pretty much going to determine your child’s future income, happiness, criminality and sprituality among other things.

Bombshell. I mean what do you do with that information? I’ll tell you what to do: chill out.

Another thing parents worry obsessively about is their child will die for the most horrible reason. News flash, children between the ages of 2 and 14 are the least likely to die of any demographic. No, they are not going to be kidnapped. In fact, you’re more likely to die than they are, so you’re better off taking care of yourself. Step 1 in that process is to de-stress. For the record, children were 4 times more likely to die during the ‘idyllic 50′s’ than they are now.

If you don’t feel like wading through a bunch of awesome statistics, here’s what I got from the book: don’t try to turn your child into something he or she is not; enjoy the precious time you have with them instead.

All told, Caplan spends too much time talking about how great his kids are and quoting childrens’ books. I suppose an economist has to go out of his way to prove that he is not a heartless robot. But I was hoping for more numbers. However, if you’re expecting, “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids” could be very enlightening and is a solid foundation for productive parenthood.


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