An Insight a Day

What It Means to Have Children

Something to think about when it comes to having children.

In the past, having children means more people to help out at the farm. It means having a higher chance of survival, both in the sense of having more people to defend the farm and having more people to run away, so the odds of someone surviving increases.

In the present, having children means taking a long-term investment on the future. It means paying for daycare and traditional schooling, spending extra on food and clothing, and tending to your child's emotional and entertainment needs until your child is all grown up.

After 20+ years, your child will hopefully be able to earn a living and help look after you when you're old. Or, they might just pay for your retirement home and live their own lives elsewhere. Or, they might end up as a Hikikomori. Who knows? There are lots of ways for this investment to play out, it depends on both the market condition and how well you've invested those 20+ years as a parent.

And in the future, having children might mean something totally different depending on how things play out from here on out.

In a recent New York Times article on the ramifications of a shrinking global population:

Many demographers argue that the current moment may look to future historians like a period of transition or gestation, when humans either did or did not figure out how to make the world more hospitable — enough for people to build the families that they want.

Surveys in many countries show that young people would like to be having more children, but face too many obstacles.

Anna Parolini tells a common story. She left her small hometown in northern Italy to find better job opportunities. Now 37, she lives with her boyfriend in Milan and has put her desire to have children on hold.

She is afraid her salary of less than 2,000 euros a month would not be enough for a family, and her parents still live where she grew up.

“I don’t have anyone here who could help me,” she said. “Thinking of having a child now would make me gasp.”

Given the current declining birth rates and the looming future of an ageing population, let's hope humanity does figure out how to make the world more hospitable.

It's not an easy problem to solve, in fact, it's one of the harder problems we will be facing in the future. At least with the climate crisis, we have a solution and we mostly know what to do, we're just not doing enough. With the ageing population crisis, we're still trying to figure things out as the issue is massively complex.

Unlike the climate crisis which can be solved with science, solving the ageing population crisis requires understanding human psychology, culture, human behavior, politics, and an understanding of how society works.

But ignoring all that complicated stuff, what can you do to help? Well, I'm glad you ask! Just like how everyone can reduce (or eliminate) their carbon footprint to help with the climate crisis, everyone can just go have children and try to bring the birth rate up a bit. I know, easier said than done, but so far, it's probably the best thing you can do to help.