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People who marry and have children intuitively know that children are a blessing and a benefit, not only to them, but to society as a whole.  They know this in spite of the endless chattering of population control advocates and environmentalists that insist that human beings are a drain on society and on the planet.  A team of economists from Berkley and Syracuse Universities have weighed in on this question and the results of their analysis might surprise you.

The economists set out to ascertain “the net fiscal externality to being a parent.”  They took a look at what it costs a couple to bear and rear a child plus what it costs the broader society to assist those parents in that endeavor.  Using complex calculations and accounting, the researchers conclude that each child provides a net benefit to society that amounts to $217,000 (in 2009 dollars).

Now here’s how the economists said it:

“Becoming a parent is tantamount to providing society with a non-depreciating capital asset that generates an annual flow of revenues in perpetuity, such that the present value of the asset (at an interest rate of 3 percent) is $217,000.”

The scholars conclude:  “the net fiscal externality of becoming a parent is positive and substantial.”  The scholars hope that their research and conclusions will contribute to policy debates, noting that current governmental programs and dialogue surrounding child bearing “distorts the incentives guiding individual fertility choices, perhaps leading to a suboptimal level of childbearing.”

The economists also note that since children provide such a huge benefit to society that “parents pay too much in taxes or, equivalently, bear too large a share of the total costs of raising children.”  They even suggest that “nonparents should pay a surtax or otherwise increase their contribution to the public budget.”

To all you mothers and fathers who make so many sacrifices to raise your families, “Thank You.”  Know there are people who “get it.”

Douglas A. Wolf et al., “Fiscal Externalities of Becoming a Parent,” Population and Development Review 37.2 (June 2011):  241-266.




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