Social Security and the Stork
The proverbial stork, bringer of babies and emblem of fertility, has been driven off course by the socialist welfare state. Now that people can rely on the state for income security in old age, they no longer need children. Social Security is undermining parenthood.
This conservative argument, flapping recently through the news media, leads to the distinctly unconservative argument that we should provide more public support for parents – a policy that many liberals and feminists (including me) also advocate. A closer look at this political paradox helps explain some basic points of disagreement about the impact of the welfare state.
The economist Ed Yardeni makes a simplistic case for “crowding out” on his blog, with a graph showing that countries with the largest public pension programs also have the lowest fertility.
This is hardly persuasive, given considerableevidence offered by the economist Peter Lindert and others that public pensions, like other forms of social spending, are strongly associated with economic development, which, in turn, promotes fertility decline. Changes in the economic and political position of women have a huge impact on family-size decisions.