The Marginal Child in 2014

These are heat maps of where people decide to have the marginal third child that breaks the “family of four” paradigm that is reflected even in consumer goods and packaging because it’s become such a core part of post-Vietnam American culture.

For all races, about 30% of births for 2014 were third kid or higher.

Third births and higher, all races

For whites, it was about 25%

Third births and higher, whites only

A starting point for discussion is that while the coasts with good jobs where both parents can potentially earn 75-100k apiece are punching a little below the national average, they are nevertheless putting up third babies in the double digits in many high-cost counties.


10 thoughts on “The Marginal Child in 2014

  1. TPC said:

    “A starting point for discussion is that while the coasts with good jobs where both parents can potentially earn 75-100k apiece are punching a little below the national average, they are nevertheless putting up third babies in the double digits in many high-cost counties.”

    One thing that makes things doable in those areas is good public schools.

    When a family is going public, the K-12 education of a third or fourth child is “free” in a sense in which private school and homeschooling is not.

    (Of course, there are costs attendant to having a child in public school–but not at the level of tuition.)

    Having public schools that one feels one can’t use is a major drag on US fertility.


    • I do wonder about that, I know for some of the counties with above-national percentages of third births, there is high private school attendance.

      I will say that a lot of people don’t really think there is any problem with public schools outside the urban ghetto, and that is a big reason that a lot of voucher or homeschool talk falls flat in even many conservative minds.


  2. Here’s an old Rod Dreher with a lot of discussion of the family size/school issue:

    Prof. Woland says:

    “The Benedict Option will become the refuge of those living in smaller cities/communities or those who are in the top 20% in income in the country.”

    Potato replies:

    “His post runs the numbers, and he’s on solid ground here it seems to me. Also, the “top 20%” thing only works if you don’t have too big a family. Some people are critical of “Bob” who has a relatively high income, but the guy also has 6 kids, and I assure you he isn’t driving around in a Tesla. If Rod is worried about the educational costs of three, just double that. Many many of the families I grew up with in my old Catholic community had six, seven, eight or even more children. Even the heavily subsidized parochial school fees of those days could be a burden, and that’s elementary school. But as has been pointed out, those days are long gone.

    “This raises yet another issue, for Roman Catholics at least (and, I believe, some evangelicals): we are supposed to be “open to life,” which usually means, larger families. It would be more convenient to ignore this factor in talking about the Benedict Option, but big Catholic families do not have that luxury. They may well be put to a choice between their faith and BenOp.

    “Then we have this school discussion, which really is a lot more of the same and underlines it. The numbers seem inescapable.

    “Even at that we’re assuming that all the children in this Benedict community will be middle-of-the-road normal. No one blind, no one deaf, no developmental or other challenges. I’m accused of “implicit radical egalitarianism” for pointing this out, but an awful lot of kids don’t fit that mold, and it seems to me that that is an important fact, especially for these kids and their families.

    “So what do we have left here? Perhaps Benedict Option communities may function as a sort of city on the hill, an aspirational model for people who could never participate, but so far as I can see all this is definitely for the well-off, and probably people who are in a position to move somewhere and then stay put regardless of economics. (Many people in the income bracket we’re talking about move around quite a bit, at the behest of corporate employers or other economic factors, and high mobility will be the death of such communities from what I can tell.) I think that some Orthodox Jewish communities make this work, as do the Amish; inquiries into how they do it (and if it actually does work) might be a way around some of these problems.

    “There is nothing at all wrong with any of this. People of faith who are in the top 20% economically, who can reliably stay put geographically while not compromising their financial situation, and who don’t have too many children (or any children with special needs), should certainly be encouraged to form faith communities if that is what they want. It is somewhat disingenuous, however, to talk as though this is a solution to anything except the problems of this rather restricted group.”

    RD replies:

    “Shorter y’all: “It won’t work, so it’s not worth trying. Just lay back and accept your fates.”

    I’d say that that Potato’s critique is pretty crushing.


    • As some of the commenters point out, there are alternative approaches than the most expensive private schooling or homeschoolordie cultyness. It’s kind of funny how we supposedly have all this technology and flexibility in modern life but people act like there’s no options when it comes to educating large numbers of kids in a Christian fashion. People have to choose to unfetter themselves mentally.


      • Y’all know where I stand on this one. I am 1) from a state with a moderate cost of living (yay!), but 2) not the best public schools and 3) something of a reluctant homeschooler because private school tuition here is pretty costly precisely because the schools are in high demand.

        The thing about living in a populous area, where there are a significant number of Christian home school families, is that for any family who hasn’t bought into the fallacy of the SAHM who home schools 6 kids, keeps a spotless house, and still manages to be a dream wife, there are a LOT of educational options. Everything from just going private for those who can afford it, to home schooling, to private schools which have programs (brick and mortar of online) for families who want to split the difference between home schooling all on their own and adding extra instruction, to simple bartering of educational subject. For instance, a former math teacher and a former lit teacher trading off so that their kids get the best instruction they can in those respective subjects.

        Of course, all of these options takes mom and kids away from the house once or even twice a week, and -horror of horrors!- the family might to eat leftovers or sandwiches on days when they have to do these things because mom is stretched thin. I am eternally grateful for a guy who actually insists that I get proper rest and leisure, even if he has to throw and occasional load in the laundry.

        All that to say, the educational thing is the biggest problems for two types: Those with the homeschool cult mentality (which is usually closely related to the super mom delusion), and those who insist that only trained teachers can educate kids, which makes me howl after having three kids graduate from the public system.

        Then of course, there is the real concern of abandoning the souls of the unwashed masses and we all wander off and create our little perfect moral, prisitine and proper religious villages.


  3. they are nevertheless putting up third babies in the double digits in many high-cost counties

    FWIW, the three dark red counties near the NYC area are home to large suburban communities of Hasidic Jewish communities which tend to have much larger families when compared to their secular or less orthodox Jewish counterparts.

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