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 13th (it will be out in January 2020), 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 10, 2013

The Argument for Only Children

Until very recently the world was almost insistently pronatalist. It had to be that way because until death rates dropped--a very recent phenomenon in world history--several children had to be born to ensure that at least two would survive to adulthood and maintain the group's size. That necessity is a thing of the past in virtually all parts of the world, but some of the prejudices that arose in the pronatalist world are still with us. One of these is that you do a disservice to your child if you deprive it of siblings--only children are bound to be defective in some way or another. My wife is an only child and I reject that argument based on her experience, but we don't need just anecdotal evidence--scientific evidence is strong that only children are not disadvantaged. 

I thought of these things as I was reading an Op-Ed in the New York Times by Lauren Sandler, who is an only child who has an only child, and has just written a book defending only children. This is a topic that has been well studied by sociologists and demographers and she quotes two of the more prominent researchers on the topic--Toni Falbo at the University of Texas, Austin, and Judith Blake, who was teaching at UCLA when she died in 1992. I mention the latter date because Ms. Sandler refers to her as though she might still be alive, and thus fails to emphasize that science put the only child myth to rest long ago, even if the public has not. And, of course, the biggest natural experiment on this score has been taking place over the past three decades in China. So far, so good, by most accounts.

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