Sunday, June 24, 2007

Birthrates in Camp

We read a great deal while at camp. Camp is highly child-centered with kids running feral in the woods with counselors and all parents watching out for everyone's children. Renewing friendships with other families returning to camp is like watching time lapse photography of our children. What better setting than that for reading the Economist's take on European birthrates? The article is highly worthy of reading in its entirety. I would like to post more about it, but after we are done with unpacking and laundry. Here are a couple of tidbits.

Italy has no more childless women than France and Sweden, countries with much higher fertility rates (see table). But more Italian mothers have just one child. The pattern is still more marked in Russia, where a third of mothers have a single child. One possible explanation is that, squeezed between family obligations from the past and current social arrangements which limit job flexibility or cheap child care, many Italian and Russian women are reacting by satisfying social pressures to produce a family to the smallest possible extent—by having one child. Such a reaction may be hard to change.


Though it is hard to be sure, the most plausible explanation is that some countries have struck a successful balance between life and work that enables parents to raise children without sacrificing their careers, and that this encourages child-rearing. If the explanation is right, it does not matter that France doles out presidential medals. But it does matter that it has an excellent, state-subsidised system of creches, to which mothers are happy to entrust their offspring.

1 comment:

  1. Mardel15:04

    I thought that was a very interesting article in the Economist. I will be interested to read your further thoughts