Monday, January 6, 2014

Success and decline

Quite interesting. Why does Singapore have such a low birth rate? by Tyler Cowen. Singapore is a fascinating little country. As multicultural as the US and probably the world's best argument (for the time being) for the potential efficacy of government policy. Whether sustainable and whether replicable elsewhere is entirely debatable.

The article is a useful recapitulation of sociological and demographic debates in a very small, controlled environment. Cowen identifies eight factors potentially affecting/suppressing fertility and provides the Singapore specific data for each. However, much that is said in this instance is applicable elsewhere, just without so much clarity. My summary of his summary:
1) Singapore educates well and education is correlated with reduced fertility.
2) Singapore has a high cost of living which makes children expensive which, ceteris paribus, reduces demand for children.
3) Singapore has a lot more entertaining distractions than in the past, raising the opportunity cost of children.
4) Singaporean women have greater economic and professional opportunity raising their specific opportunity costs for children.
5) Traditional cultural expectations of women in Singapore are demanding and inflexible, making the incompatibility between careers and family more stark than in other countries.
6) Government pronatalism propaganda is ineffective.
7) Singapore is inescapably dense and density has a negative correlation with fertility.
8) Child care and related subsidies are insufficient to outweigh the above factors.

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