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Friday, June 17, 2005

Thinking About the Birth Rate

A week or so ago, I (naively) posted a wish list of legislative gifts that would make life easier for the childbearing woman (more specifically, me).  Although I had mostly been thinking of reforms that would benefit women with children and possibly make it easier for a pregnant woman to choose to keep a child, Professor Kate Litvak commented that none of these reforms that I proposed, which would be subsidized by taxpayers, had done anything to increase the birth rate in European countries.  Today, Eugene Volokh is ruminating over what innovations (not regulations) could increase the birth rate.

His answer is that technological changes that facilitate young women freezing their embryos for use later in life could increase the number of children that a woman would have in her lifetime.   In fact, a month or so ago a 53-year-old woman gave birth to her second child that she gestated after having frozen the embryos for 15 years.  (I cannot find anything on the show's site to link to on this.)  I think technological advances in this direction could affect some women's choices about the number of children, but perhaps mostly just the timing of the children.

I think that when some of my friends say that they would like more children but that are too old, they don't just mean their eggs are old.  Parenting takes a lot of energy.  I had my first child at 30, and I can't even imagine how exhausting that would have been at 50.  Also, believing that one is too old to have a baby may also be connected to thinking that one would be too old to have a teenager 15 years from now.  So, any technological advances in incubating embryos would also need to be accompanied by general technological advances in medicine that keep us healthy well into our 80s.

Posted by Christine Hurt on June 17, 2005 at 05:08 PM in Deliberation and voices | Permalink


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A lot of people who talk about enabling people to have children later in life neglect to consider the energy it takes to bring up a child. Good observation

Posted by: NYgirl | Jun 19, 2005 4:18:44 PM

Do we want an increase in the birth rate?

Which of course is a different question from do we want an increase in the freedom of women to bear children.

I'm kind of conflicted on this issue, because I think we should want more personal childbearing choice for women, but a lower birth rate...

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Jun 17, 2005 5:35:53 PM

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