I am devouring books more quickly now, as A has recently emerged from that newborn evening fussy stage and will, usually, nurse contentedly at night while I read-- or blog. Even though evenings with an infant are getting easier, that is not why I decided to read the newly-released book, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think, by economist Bryan Caplan. I was captivated by the title and enjoy economists' views on personal decision-making.
I thought the author's economic argument could have been made more persuasively, but his overall premise is a provocative one: basically, we parents are “over-charging” ourselves when it comes to the cost of each child. Caplan analyzes the controversial “nature vs. nurture” question and determines that lifetime outcomes have more to do with genetics than parenting. If we're smart, healthy and happy, he maintains, then our kids will likely be smart, healthy and happy, so we should be less stressed about being perfect parents and instead enjoy our kids more. If we stop this “over-charging,” he contends, then the price of each kid falls and, as rational consumers, we should “buy” more.
Despite Caplan's research, I'm not convinced that nature trumps nurture, but I do agree with another of his assertions that there are huge “start-up” costs associated with one's first child, and only marginal “costs” for each additional child, particularly when we don't let the little daily stresses of parenthood get to us. (Or when we learn that non-stop nursing allows us to actually finish a book.)
For more about the book, here is a well-written review from The Wall Street Journal.