Breeding More Georgians

Via Tyler Cowen, here’s one way to boost birth rates:

Two years after having one of the lowest birth rates in the world, Georgia [the country] is enjoying something of a baby boom, following an intervention from the country’s most senior cleric.

At the end of 2007, in a move to reverse the Caucasian country’s dwindling birth figures, the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, came up with an incentive. He promised to personally baptise any baby born to parents of more than two children.

There was only one catch: the baby had to be born after the initiative was launched. […]

The country’s birth rate increased by nearly 20% during 2008 — a rate four times faster than the previous year.

Less clear to me is why so many people seem concerned by the specter of low birth rates. Historically, low levels of population are associated with high average living standards. That should be less true in the modern world where we’re not as dependent on agriculture for our economic activity. But the logic hasn’t completely vanished. If there were dramatically fewer people in the United States it would be much more realistic for us to all be eating free-range organic grass-fed beef. And even amidst a real estate bust, the country is far too crowded for a middle class family to afford a spacious residence in the most desirable markets such as San Francisco or Manhattan. I think that to deliberately constrain people from having large families would be abhorrent, but it’s not clear to me that we should be going out of our way to encourage them to do so.


Doing more to ease the burden on parents of families of any side — family leave, high-quality preschool, more day care, some kind of recognition for the value of the work done by stay-at-home moms (or dads) — is another matter. But why should the Georgians care if few families choose to have three or more kids?