Why People Continue to Have Children

I do not have children. I still feel like a child so the idea of creating and being responsible for another human beings life scares me. That being said, I think I do want kids eventually. I think there will come a day when I am responsible enough for that responsibility...maybe. Hopefully.

This episode of the Freakonomics podcast is about what makes a person more or less likely to have children. They look at how factors like income, education, and a generally optimistic outlook on life affect the choice to become a parent.

Host Stephen Dubner speaks with Brown University economist Emily Oster about the various factors that seem to drive high and low fertility. She says that fertility rates can be linked to a variety of behaviors. Most interestingly, access to cable tv. She says, "When people get access to cable TV, which really lets them watch soap operas, it actually decreases their fertility, and one interpretation of that is that people see the people on TV, they have fewer kids, and they have this really fancy life, presumably because they’re on television. But you know, maybe if I had fewer kids I could … have that also."

Stephen also speaks with Elizabeth Frankenberg, a demographer and sociologist at Duke. Elizabeth has been studying population dynamics in Indonesia for over 20 years. The tsunami in 2004  killed more than 150,000 people (many of which were children) in Indonesia. Elizabeth and her team looked at how fertility was affected in it's aftermath. "So we looked at whether losing a child in the tsunami predicted a birth after the tsunami, and the answer to that question was yes," Elizabeth says. "Women who had lost a child in the tsunami were about ten percentage points more likely to have another birth after the tsunami than women whose children had survived."

At the close of the program, Stephen asks Emily Oster if the phrase, "Development is the best contraceptive – that is, as countries get richer, their population growth tends to slow" is supported by data and if there is a magic number of children to support an economy. Emily says yes to both. To the latter questions Emily says, "It’s 2.2."

My mother is pressuring me pretty heavily to have a baby. Now I have to add the pressure of the U.S. economy to have another 1.2! Sheesh.

Bonus info: For more from economist Emily Oster, check out her book, "."