American childbearing goes Scandinavian

The latest birth and fertility data are showing what I feared, the only age groups showing an increase in births were the 30-44 age groups.  All groups under age 30 have been showing consistent and steady declines of late, with the 25-29 group finally succumbing after occasional blips upwards half a decade ago.

Lower under-18 births is ok, and that continues (and no it is not via more abortions, but less sex).  But the shift towards having kids in your 30s as the norm continues apace.  This is the modern Scandinavian model.

The plus side is that there’s more married childbearing in all racial groups.  The unwed motherhood trend is going ever so slowly backwards, consistently.  Black births to unwed mothers dropped while the total number of births increased, lowering their percentage of unwed births.

There’s a shift in the last decade where unwed mothers are finally seeing percentage and absolute decreases in their births, but married mothers are having more children.

Fewer women are having children, but the ones who get married first are having more third and up children than they used to five years ago.  This is tricky though, because with women having all their kids in their 30s and 40s more, we can’t be sure we haven’t moved into a different fertility pattern of relative robustness for the women who can navigate waiting that long to marry and pop out 3 or more kids.  It could be the latest dead cat bounce before we get yet another step down in higher order births.

Real Talk for SAHMs: Solutions for Sleep Deprivation like Solid Core Doors and White Noise Generators

Title says it all, but what does the title mean?

It means major factors in sleep deprivation for mothers, particularly SAHMs are not infants and toddlers screaming for milk or comfort frequently through the night, but rather the stray babbling and what I like to call Rebel Yells (one cry lasting one or two seconds).  As well as random noises in the night from other members of the household getting up occasionally.

So the solution is devices that filter out the minor non-emergency sounds of nighttime while allowing the real cries lasting more than a moment to penetrate.  And that is where solid core doors and white noise generators come in.

What are the benefits of a solid core door?

  • Reduces sound entering the room by ~50%.  Rebel yells sound like babble and babble is muted below a level that would wake a lightly sleeping mother.
  • Due to sound reduction, once you fall asleep, it’s harder for micro-waking to be triggered, so you get more quality sleep as well.  Micro-waking happens to a lot of people who believe that “just tune it out and roll over” doesn’t come with sleep cycle interruption.
  • Helps during the daytime when all the kids are up and about and you need a block of focused time.  If the kids are happy and just rambunctious, the solid core mutes that enough that you can concentrate easily.  It’s like a hum or a mild rumble compared to the hollow core doors that are standard.
  • Cheap for the effectiveness.  Most models are only $100-200 per door, and even with installation costs of $50-100 will last even longer than the hollow cores that are standard.
  • Not sleep related, directly, but heavy and thus more child-proof.  An angry two year old with a hammer isn’t going to get very far.  Also harder for kids to take off the hinges.

So what about that white noise generator?

Well, that’s the second piece of the puzzle.  White noise generators are often used on the baby/toddler in hopes of keeping them from waking.  But sometimes the more effective approach is to give one each to the nursery room or mom’s room.

This tends to be more helpful once you’re actually asleep, with the white noise reducing the tendency to micro-wake.  Depending on the type of white noise generator, it can also help you get to sleep and relax you.  There’s mechanical ones, usually not very loud, and digital ones, sometimes very loud.  I’d get the digital one, since it’s easier to play a range of sounds.  Either mechanical or digital runs $25 to $100, so they’re also cheap.

Combined with a solid core door, nearly all the intermittent and random noise is muted enough to tune out, but any emergency yelling will still come through.

Why yes, I do know what wedding gifts I’m giving my daughters, in law and natural!

Debunking Lily Batchelder and her fake news analysis of Trump’s tax plan.

There’s a fake “analysis” by an Obama shill named Lily Batchelder going around that Trump’s tax plan and child care deductions will raise taxes for middle class people, including single mothers. But the analysis is based on two massive lies:

  1. That no working parents use child care in the United States.  
  2. That the cost of child care is cheaper than all the reports from Washington Post, Vox, many others and again, GOVERNMENT DATA.  

This is complete nonsense, based upon data from a variety of government sources, collected at http://www.childstats.gov.  At worst, 1 in 30 parents are bringing a child or children to work with them.  The rest have their children in a variety of child care arrangements, usually relatives or center-based care, but with a substantial share using nannies, babysitters and the like.  97% of working parents use child care in the United States.

As far as the second lie goes, Batchelder grudgingly estimates child care costs at a much lower number than government and other sources do, as shown below.

So either child care is super cheap and the Washington Post, Vox and other fake news media were lying when they said it was so expensive, and crippling family budgets, or Trump’s plan is totally awesome and Batchelder and the fake news media don’t want to admit it, since the plan allows to you deduct the average cost for your state *per child up to 4 kids* and the national averages for child care from ages 0-13 (where a child ages out of being deductible) are clearly far more than the $6000 and $8000 numbers for child care cost Batchelder tosses around in her fake report about Trump’s tax plan and child care deductions.

She claims all her assumptions are “reasonable” or “conservative”, but since they are based on massive lies, this is prima facie yet another complete lie.  Her assumptions are neither reasonable, rational or conservative.  The statement that the deduction is for a specific number of children suggests that it is a deduction per child, with the average cost of care calculated for each single child and added up for the first four children in a household.  There’s also the FACT that Trump’s plan mentions that the $500 top-ups for EITC-eligible parents are per child, so the deductions appear across the board to be per child up to four children.

Let’s view Batchelder’s examples through a more fact-based, real-world lens, with deductions per child, and assuming that nearly all households use child care or have a relative providing care at home as a grandparent or SAHP.

Her two big examples are a single parent making $75,000 per year with two school-aged children who has no child care costs and a married couple with two children making $50,000 per year with $8000 in childcare costs.  Some key points about those fake examples:

  • Batchelder’s single parent makes TRIPLE THE MEDIAN INCOME of single parents in most states, including most high-income states.  So this is a very fake example of a single parent.
  • At triple the median income of a real single parent household, Batchelder’s single parent “reasonably” can be assumed to live somewhere with high earning potential like New York.  (Hey, that 75k is almost exactly triple the median income of single parents in New York!  Wow!)
  • The cost of school-age before/aftercare (AKA “child care for school-age children”) in New York is about $8000 per year, per child.  Not total, which is what Batchelder uses to shoehorn Trump’s plan into a Narrative of “higher taxes for hard working single mommas”.  But a single parent making that kind of money is “reasonably” and “conservatively” likely to be paying a lot more than $8000 per year in child care costs.
  • Meanwhile, Batchelder’s married couple makes far less than the median income of married couples in most states and is EITC eligible (barely).  Funny how that works. Further, even her torturing of math for muh Narrative still doesn’t hide that this near-poor married couple owes nothing EITHER WAY.  Her only rebuttal is that the new tax refund this family gets isn’t big enough, not that they pay more tax!
  • But at $50,000 per year for two married parents (her example does not state if both or just one is working), they are “reasonably” likely to be using grandma for child care or Mom is staying home.  In which case Batchelder’s torturing of the data is in vain, because this household can deduct whatever the average cost is in their state times two.  Since she doesn’t specify those kids are school-aged, that household can deduct the much higher typical cost for two children of preschool or infant age, which ranges from $14,000 annually in the South to $22,000 in the Northeast and $18,000 in the Midwest and West.
  • “Conservatively” and “reasonably” assuming the married couple lives in the Midwest and Mom stays home with the two kids under 5, Batchelder’s $8000 estimate is simply too low, nowhere near the cap allowed.

Trump’s tax plan changes the above-the-line deductions to a flat number of $15,000 for singles and $30,000 for marrieds filing jointly and eliminates both personal exemptions head of household as a tax status, along with condensing tax brackets down to three.  This is the source of a lot of whining around the internets about losing the Head of Household tax status.  But given the high cost of child care, the above-the-line deduction is more than adequate to replace it.

For the $75,000 parent, this changes their pre-child care taxable income from $53, 550 to $60,000.  But that parent can deduct up to $16,000 above the line rather than $8000, so they end up with $44,000 left over, and under the new brackets, they obviously pay less than under current law.  Definite savings.  Instead of the lie that the $75,000 single parent would pay $1640 more in taxes, they would actually pay $4125 instead of the current $5685, a savings of over $1500. Under Trump’s new tax plan, even a high-income single parent making $75,000 per year with two school-aged children can see a tax savings of 30%.

Meanwhile, that $50,000 earning married household whose details are much more blurry would see a much larger refund than they already are eligible for, since they could claim up to $18,000 above the line after their $30,000 deduction and $2,000 in child credits and EITC credit.  So we would be paying married people to have slightly more children at the margins, since having a third child would still benefit this household by adding another $9000 of deduction, which we can’t make assumptions about, because at just two children, they have $0 in taxable income after child credit, standard deduction and imputed child care deduction for the SAHM.

In short, Trump’s tax plan is sketched out and low on nitpicky details.  But a reasonable, realistic set of assumptions shows that it’s a very generous plan with a very pro-natalist, pro-family, pro-woman setup.

Lunks and their bright wives: conservative marriage through the years

A great deal of weirdness in conservative life can be explained by the theory that smarter women were more likely to end up out in the West/frontier and also be able to offset the consequences of marrying a relatively lunkish guy because their domestic labors were monetized.  They also could afford to take the chance of marrying a lunk because he didn’t need to be all that clever to make it in the West.

Over time as the domestic sphere lost its financially remunerative aspects, the general pattern was established, but that just left such women scrambling to compensate in other ways, leaving them prey to scams and schemes because they had income pressure but no easy way to integrate it into their increasingly narrow domestic sphere.

This was, I think, since it’s been sitting in draft so long, a prelude of sorts to my Grand Unified Theory of Spectrum Formation, in which the nuclear family in America converges towards fulfilling an Asperger or autism-spectrum norm because those are a bigger and bigger chunk of the married people still able to afford having kids.  And this is especially obvious with conservatives, who appear to be continuing to have children for reasons not related to religiosity at all and this explains some of those reasons.

Marriage and divorce data roundup

72% of married couples in 2009 were man and woman in first marriage.  22% were one or both spouses in second marriage.

Median duration of  first marriage for American women is 20.8 years and for remarriage is 14.5 years, with the South and Midwest having longer median durations in both cases.  West and East have shorter median durations.

Pdf report with more details on marriage duration here.

Longer life expectancy means the current later marriage ages aren’t so bad, since it means longer marriages.  Men have 15 or more years on their 1890 counterparts and women have decades more on theirs.  

 

The takeaway is that divorce isn’t as rampant as some make out and marriages are lasting pretty long, and, well, Americans have been taking the fertility hit to marry later and in a better financial position for a long long time except for a brief 15 year blip.

Money does matter

I don’t think poor people shouldn’t have kids, but I talk about a high household income earned mostly by Dad because money does matter in a world where people are always running away from their duties and obligations to people outside their immediate nuclear family.  Obviously yes, even in America you can totally raise six kids to adulthood on 20 thousand bucks a year.  But the big conservative lie around this is that it’s a middle class upbringing.

Further, refusal to accept that individualistic, disconnected society really does have high financial costs attached keeps a lot of families dancing without a net over a ravine.

Take the often promoted “telecommute in the boonies!” plan.  Well, where’s the internet to do that?  In most of rural America outside of city limits, high-speed, telecommuting-friendly internet is several hundred dollars a month, not fifty.  In practice, people “telecommuting” this way are either defining “suburb with large backyards” as “rural” or they are commuting the old fashioned way.

And if you live rurally, it is easier to let the kids scamper around while mom stays home with no other adults nearby doing stuff around the house.  But eventually the kids need to go places, and now mom is on the commute-train too.  Even the very rural homeschool types can’t actually sit at home all day every day and never leave until the youngest of nine is 18.

Having no money, and no ability to earn a large income leave the entire household vulnerable all the time.  Dad’s car breaks.  It’s a fix requiring shop access (car lift).  Those kinds of homes exist in rural areas, but they’re not the cheap ones you could afford because “how dare you suggest we not have mom stay home when dad’s earning capacity maxes out at 40k a year!”  A lot of people get forced into really tough positions a lot faster.  It can get really ugly really unexpectedly.

Like romanticizing herb lore because you can’t afford doctor visits for chronic ailments.  Or buying the kids off with cheap filling food because you aren’t really rural, but exurban and there’s nowhere safe for them to play (busy streets, no way to walk to the nearest open play area, and you’re a one-car household).

Money would matter less if everyone was aggressive about using the interwebs to maintain clannish-style community ties to keep people matched up if they were far-flung.  Or if living twenty to a 2000 square foot house was normal mode in America right now.

From both the comments and Shirley Jackson, homes used to be built with very small sleeping areas and larger shared spaces.  Shirley Jackson’s family moved into a home not much bigger than the 2500 square feet places of now, but it was split into four completely separate apartments, with very tiny sleeping areas, almost no built-in closet space and bigger social and cooking areas.  But large homes aren’t built or even modified this way anymore.

Money also wouldn’t matter if people accepted that leaving everything in the hands of one woman on the baby having and raising front will lead to fewer children if she’s really struggling and even if she personally isn’t because it always has and it’s even more the case with reliable contraception and sterilization and delaying marriage for those who take the other two options off the table.

This one’s pretty open for discussion.

About 55% of American women 40 and over have 1 or 2 children.

Given biology, this percentage is much the same for American women 35-39 as well.  About 20% have exactly three and a bit under 8% have exactly 4.  Hispanic women have three at noticeably higher rates than other ethnic groups, which has kept the percentage of women having 3 pretty stable over the last couple of decades.

The numbers were a little lower 15 and 20 years ago, but not by much.

Adding all that up, over 80% of women have 1-4 children in their lifetimes.  Nearly all the rest do not have kids at all. About 3% have five or six.  More than six is, statistically speaking, a rounding error.

Sometimes you hear that “80 or 85% of all women reproduce”.  Well, yeah, but in practice, this is what that means as far as actual children born.

On a related note, Scandinavian birthrates are mostly below replacement and they are only as close to it as they are because of social and government pressure to get women over 35 to have a marginal extra child.  The Scandinavian model of family formation is to have one child in your early 30s, and occasionally a second in your mid or late 30s.  It’s really a disastrous approach long-term for reasons I’ll leave as an exercise.

The American model is much more diverse, but tends towards closely spacing births and having as many as you can handle mostly alone, which appears to max out around 3 or 4.  But because child spacing varies so much among Americans having kids, it’s difficult for people who had three kids five years apart over two marriages to understand the travails of someone having three kids in three years in one marriage.  Or having one kid out of wedlock in one’s early 20s and then two more in marriage ten years later.

It’s interesting that for several decades now women have been starting their families in their 30s in America more and more often and trying to have as many as they can then, but they can’t outrun biology, so the overall TFR doesn’t shift much.