Saturday, July 2, 2011


The Atlantic advertises David Leonhardt's brief talk at the Aspen Institute about the perils of "momism". I look forward to Leonhardt's future remarks on the parallel plight of men and women who spend a lot of time with their boats. Boats, like children. sports cars and flower gardens, are a durable consumption good that often proves so engaging that it consumes a great deal of time that might otherwise be spent on career development. I also look forward to Leonhardt's call for universal boat care and company marinas.

More seriously, I do understand that children are different than boats in important ways, but at the same time I think the comparison is illustrative and useful to provoke some actual thinking in a policy domain where sentiment tends to reigns supreme. There are serious equity issues here not just between men and women, but between people who choose to have children and people who do not. There are also substantive environmental issues associated with subsidizing domestic population growth (the explicit aim of universal daycare policies in other countries but left implicit in discussions that focus on parental gender) as well as links to policy choices related to immigration. Thinking like an economist about these issues can aid in sorting out both the policy and the ethics by identifying the inherent tradeoffs.

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