08 March 2011

Economies of Scale

From the New York Times Motherlode blog:

Is the third child somehow more “economical” than the first or second? “With any big project, there are start-up costs,” she says. “But does the marginal cost of kids fall?”

There are numbers that suggest so. Parsing USDA data (click here and see page 7) she finds that “if you have two kids, ages 13 and 16, your costs as a middle-income family will be $23,000 per year” to feed, house and clothe them. “However, if you have three kids, ages 11, 13, and 16, your costs will be $25,880 – in other words, the third kid is costing just $2,880 extra.”

And “mega families,” she says, believe this is true. “All of them told me that the marginal cost of children falls precipitously. I’m sure this is partly true, though it also depends on what you plan to do for the kids — most of them don’t plan to pay for college. They also tend not to buy plane tickets for 16 people.”


Elizabeth said...

What an interesting article. It always interests (and astounds and amazes me) when I read articles written by New York Times or Wall Street Journal regarding children, specifically big families, especially since they are always taken from an economic or environmental perspective. Environmental: you know, overpopulation and how we have to be green and stuff. It would be comical that the secular world doesn't seem to get the "point" of big families, if it wasn't so sad.

I thought her questions at the end of the article were especially telling:
"Do you have more than two or three children? How do you amortize the cost?

Did you decide not to have any more children because you don’t want to “change your expectations”?

Is it somehow “cheating” older children by diluting funds for activities and education? Or somehow “cheating” younger ones with a life where nothing they own is new and nothing they do is first? Or is that how the most valuable life lessons are learned?"

Dakotapam said...

I don't think it costs much more for us to have six children as it did for us to have two. Of course, we are in a different financial situation now, compared to then, so it is hard to tell.

However, the larger our family has gotten, the less we travel. TLC does not pick up our travel costs, so we stick to visiting friends within a day's drive and call Cub and Boy Scout camp a vacation.

For our current family size it would be more cost effective to go on a European vacation than to visit Disney.

However, I would not trade my family for a vacation. Ever.

Glenda said...

Cheaper by the Dozen anyone?

Reb. Mary said...

>>They also tend not to buy plane tickets for 16 people.<<

They also tend to grocery shop quite differently.

Reb. Mary said...

Tangential: Elizabeth, those questions you highlighted in the last part of your comment reminded me of one Clarence E. MacCartney,as quoted by Allan Carlson recently in Touchstone in an article on "Sanger's Victory: How Planned Parenthood's Founder Played the Christians-and Won": "Should the recommendations of many Protestant ministers today [in the 20s]be followed, it will come to this: After a second or third child has been brought into the home...the Protestant minister will be summoned to strangle it, so that the firstborn will have a chance to go to college." Telling, yes.

Elizabeth said...

Reb. Mary, Yes, as if children cannot go to college unless they are one of three or less children in a family. As if at a certain magical number of children, you just can't afford to feed them all because you and your hubby must go to the Bahamas for your vacation.

Reb. Mary said...

Elizabeth, although it's perhaps a tad more nuanced than that ;D, I know whatcha mean.

For clarity's sake I'll add a word: I'm sure that for the majority of our selves, our Dear Readers and their acquaintanceship, the Bahamas are not what make us chew our cuticles when we foolishly attempt to gaze into our crystal balls, but rather, as Rebekah pointed out a while back, that we simply don't want to hurt anymore. And that we truly do want to take care of the kids we already have. Ah, Providence, how I do struggle with trust!

To heck with the Bahamas; I'd settle for a bubble bath :D.

Anonymous said...

But just as it is ridiculous for the world to see large families only in terms of money, it is also ridiculous to dismiss the idea entirely. My neighbor is in terrific debt due to medical bills/job loss and is getting his house foreclosed on. His family of five children is about to smash into a two bedroom apartment with his sister and her husband. Though the new neighborhood is yuppy, the public schools are bad and (obviously) they cannot afford private school. Now they expect everyone (including the put-upon sister) to be happy for them because they are expecting their 6th child. This isn't an issue of Bahamas trips, it is a very real issue of people seriously not being able to meet the basic needs of their family. And for all the talk of their church, people there consistently support candidates that vote to cut funding to social programs and education.
This family is ultra-Catholic, not Lutheran, but as anyone who took 6th grade health class will tell you, anything as slight as a cold will render NFP ineffective. So why would this family go (effectively) without birth control when their other 5 kids are about to be homeless?

Rebekah said...

Anon, I don't know those people. I believe it is the job of their priest to counsel them on this matter.