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Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids

Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think

By Bryan Caplan
15-minute read
Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think by Bryan Caplan

Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids examines the demands of modern parenting and why people today are choosing to have fewer and fewer kids. The author argues that this trend is due to modern parents placing too high expectations on themselves, even when a far more relaxed style of parenting would get the job done just as well and make the whole experience more enjoyable.

  • Anyone considering whether or not to have children
  • Anyone who has children and is wondering whether to have more
  • Parents who feel exhausted and worry about the adequacy of their parenting

Bryan Caplan is a professor of economics at George Mason University and the father of three children. The New York Times called his first book, The Myth of the Rational Voter the “best political book of the year.”

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Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids

Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think

By Bryan Caplan
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think by Bryan Caplan
Synopsis

Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids examines the demands of modern parenting and why people today are choosing to have fewer and fewer kids. The author argues that this trend is due to modern parents placing too high expectations on themselves, even when a far more relaxed style of parenting would get the job done just as well and make the whole experience more enjoyable.

Key idea 1 of 9

If you forego children, you’ll likely regret it; but having children doesn’t automatically make you happier.

Many people decide to start families and have children, but few pause to analyze the data and statistics regarding such a move. So is having children actually a good idea?

As is to be expected, the answer is not straightforward, so let’s approach it from a few different angles.

First, we can consider it from a “customer satisfaction” perspective: if a business wants to know how satisfied customers were with a purchase, it can ask them whether they’d buy the same product again. Similarly, parents can say whether they’d have their children again.

It turns out that parenthood does well in this metric. A study regarding this matter showed there is very little buyer’s remorse on parents’ behalf: 91 percent did not regret the decision to have children, claiming they’d do it all over again with each child.

On the other hand, non-buyer’s remorse seems pretty prevalent. Another survey showed that, among childless parents over the age of forty, more than two-thirds confessed they had regrets over not having had children.

In a nutshell, an overwhelming majority of parents seem to be happy with the kids they’ve got, while childless people often regret the decision later on.

A second way to analyze parenthood is by looking at overall happiness in life. The following data may seem surprising.

At first glance, parents tend to be happier than non-parents on average. But that’s because parents also tend to be older, married and church-going, and these factors in themselves are positively correlated with happiness. If these factors are compensated for otherwise, the tables turn: there’s a slightly negative correlation between having children and happiness.

However, the negative effect is very small and, after the first child, each subsequent child only adds slightly to that effect. This indicates that it’s entirely feasible to reverse it by adjusting your parenting approach and improving your own life.

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