This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, June 3, 2013

Chilean President Wants to Pay Women to Have Children

The total fertility rate in Chile has dropped below the replacement level, mirroring fertility trends in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, with Colombia not too far behind. In general, those South American countries with relatively small indigenous populations, and relatively large shares of the population with some European origin have been experiencing European-style declines in fertility. Brazil and Chile have the lowest fertility at the moment, and this bothers Chilean President Sebastián Piñera--so much so, that according to The Economist, he is sending a bill to Congress to pay mothers $200 per month for a third child, $300 per month for a fourth, and $400 per month for each one above four. There are no eligibility limitations in this proposal.
The announcement prompted a good deal of ribaldry. Chilean men asked hopefully if they would be paid to father three children with different mothers. The payment was quickly dubbed “the Opus Dei bonus”, after an influential conservative Catholic sect. It was designed, its critics said, to reward wealthy, conservative families, renowned for their prodigious fecundity. Critics say there are more constructive ways to encourage women to have larger families, such as better child care.
Like all such schemes that have been proposed over the years, this is unlikely to motivate very many women to have additional children, even if the Chilean Congress were to pass such a law. As I argue in my book, the best way to keep fertility levels near replacement level is to level the playing field for women relative to men. Providing women access to education and the labor force, while at the same time trying to maintain traditional family norms of a wife and mother doing all of the work at home is basically the recipe for very low fertility that countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Japan have all put into place.

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