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Culture War Roundup for the week of July 10, 2023

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To me, increased immigration seems like a no-brainer,

Do you mean this in the sense that you would have to have no brain in order to support it?

The situation being presented makes more of a case for immigration flows to immediately go into reverse, rather than the opposite. If age ratios are changing and adjusting like this, why would you want to depress native fertility by importing a bunch of low-skilled workers who will drive up real estate values, drive down wages, create "bad school" zones that represent an additional hidden cost to family formation(amongst people who you would want to form a family), etc. Even if you give the pro-migrant cause as good of a hearing as the data suggests, the nature of it as a short-term fix means that it isn't actually a worthwhile answer to the problems in question - just kicking the can down the road.

why would you want to depress native fertility by importing a bunch of low-skilled workers

This is the first time I've heard this claim. Is there empirical evidence to support this?

I think he’s referring to the cost of housing in the US making children unaffordable. A lot of millennials and zoomers can’t afford kids at all.

This claim has always sounded like an excuse to me, because I have only ever heard it from people who are middle or upper-middle class, while families much poorer than theirs both in this country and abroad are somehow able to raise multiple kids.

The cost of raising a child in the middle/upper classes is substantially higher than that of raising a child in the trailerpark, and the sort of middle/upper-middle class people who you generally want to reproduce care enough about the quality of life of their prospective children that they're going to want to be able to provide more. If you don't care about getting your kid into a good school in favour of prioritising your fentanyl habit you're going to be less effected by what's happening than someone who wants to make sure their kid has a chance at making the ivies, and more likely to have unplanned children to boot.

That's all true, but "I am unwilling to have a child if doing so means compromising on a middle class lifestyle for them or me" is not the same thing as "I cannot afford to have a child." Having known people whose parents gave them away to another family as children to keep them from going hungry, this is not a trivial distinction. We'd also be better off if those same prospective middle class parents were willing to make more economic compromises for the sake of raising children, as those children will turn out more or less the same regardless of which school district or extracurricular activities they're in.

Parents almost universally wish to make sure that their children have at least the same if not more opportunity than they do - and to be perfectly honest given the state of a lot of lower-income and migrant-heavy areas, I think it does actually become a matter of great significance if not life and death to the children in question and hence their parents. School districts might not manner to the degree that some parents believe, but they absolutely play a big part in future life paths and connections. Do you think telling prospective parents "Look I know you say you don't have enough money to afford a home in a good area, but why aren't you willing to move to Detroit? The money you'd save on mortgage repayments would allow you to have an extra kid!" is actually a viable idea? A lot of these people in the middle class have a galaxy of commitments and ties connecting them to their current locations and ways of life - you can demand that they all move to the barrios and start pumping out babies, but that just isn't a real solution in the world we live in.

If you do actually have the power to force these people to have and then raise their children in environments deeply hostile to future success in life, you would be better off using that power to reduce pressure in other ways. Cutting off migrant flows, child-raising and child-rearing subsidies, muscular enforcement efforts against migrant-induced wage suppression, etc. There are so many policy levers that can be pulled and ways pressure can be applied that make trying to forcibly adjust and manipulate the psychology of family formation to make them "more willing" to reproduce strikes me as a total non-starter. That said, a sudden collapse of society and plunge into a dark age would also convince these people to reproduce, but I think there are other consequences to that approach which render it a bad idea.

Do you think telling prospective parents "Look I know you say you don't have enough money to afford a home in a good area, but why aren't you willing to move to Detroit? The money you'd save on mortgage repayments would allow you to have an extra kid!" is actually a viable idea?

Moving to an inner city slum is not the only alternative to trying to live in the coastal elite bubble. There are dozens of smaller cities and towns in flyover country that have both a much lower cost of living and lower crime than the major metropolitan areas. Many of these are college towns that don't lack for quality schools and access to cultural or intellectual amenities either e.g. Ames, Ann Arbor, Athens, and that's just the A's. All it takes is giving up the conceit that anyone who doesn't live and work in New York or California is a miserable failure, but many of my peers seem to believe this deep in their bones.

At the end of the day though, I don't care much for or have any confidence in large-scale social engineering projects, so I'm not approaching any of this from a policy angle. Whoever ends up reproducing themselves gets to own the future, whether that's native-born Americans, Guatemalan immigrants, Hasidic Jews, or GPT-bots, and whatever opinions I have on which of those outcomes are better or worse are immaterial.

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They're able to buy iPhones as well, doesn't mean they can afford them.