I think the NPR programme hit a nerve, just look at the chatter it generated in the blogosphere. I don't know about the U.S. but, about the U.K. I can tell you this phenomenon is certainly not confined to the super-rich. A few middle-class, professional parents we know have, or are planning to have, 4 or more children. This includes owners of struggling start-ups and I.T. managers (i.e. Dads, the Moms are all SAHM) who can in no way afford a nanny, let alone paid-for childcare of any sort.
But they may still be the victims of a social trend or a prevalent philosophy. Along with a hankering for going back-to-nature and an organic way of living. Home-baked bread, local farm produce, hand-made clothes and so on. What is this? Competitive Homemaking? Will I find myself with the unforeseen dilemma of being expected to have 4 kids? I started looking for answers, like any good little leftist film school graduate, in the socioeconomic factors first. Behind every wave of change in society lies an economic reality. Bryan Caplan writes:
Basic microeconomics recommends a simple strategy. Have the number of children that maximizes average utility over your whole lifespan. When you are 30, you might feel like two children is plenty. But once you are 60, you are more likely to prefer ten sons and daughters to keep you company and keep the grandkids coming.
So these super-families are just looking ahead to making their retirement cosily cared-for? In which case, some might agree with The Angry Dictator who writes:
I think there is a more obvious approach to the problem. Why not just have a market for children so parents can buy and sell them at various times to maximize utility at every given point?Um, he's joking, you do get that, right? Here I was, thinking we had an overpopulation problem what with shrinking resources and such. But apparently:
...adding people produces more GDP too (i.e., you increase the numerator as well as the denominator), and the not-so-obvious fact that some types of products (e.g., cures for rare diseases, music only a smaller percentage of people like) are profitable only when there is a large enough total population that the small percentage of people who benefit large enough to make the product worthwhile.
:writes the Econ-blogger at Different River, quoting Julian Simon above.
Probably years from now, Economists will discover the connection between the hyper-fecundity of the early noughties and the current financial crisis.