Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Bad predictions

 This is Joseph.

Early on in the pandemic, one of the worst takes is that the "stay at home" orders would result in a baby boom. This was a terrible take.  Let us consider the countervailing forces:

  1. Harder to meet partners, so this "baby boom" is mostly among people already living together
  2. Those living together are under tremendous stress, which is not good for marriage. Obviously, if you are considering a divorce that is poor timing for children
  3. There is suddenly a ton of financial uncertainty. 
  4. We got to see childcare collapse and schools turn into an unreliable form of childcare. If you are having trouble with two jobs at the same time due to unreliable (or no) childcare, that seems like a bad time to add children to the mix
  5. Who wants a ton of medical center encounters during an actual pandemic?
  6. In the United States, health care is linked to employment (the thing that the economic uncertainty also influences) and who wants to take risks with that? 
The actual baby boom occured after the period of uncertainty and suffering was over (World War 2) and in the context of an economic boom. Sure, after years of deprivation, the sudden appearance of opportunity is going to make many people consider children. But going into conditions worsening, birth rates were already at record lows

Now I am not saying that it is necessarily bad to have a falling birth rate. There are a lot of complex issues that go into whether or dropping birth rates are a net positive. But this was definitely one of the predictions that seemed to look at very surface effects and make a very naive extropolation.

It is a different post, but I think there is huge confusion between "working at home under normal conditions" and "working at home in a pandemic": if nothing else, there is a lot less focus to had when everybody is trapped in the house all of the time 

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