Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Children: inferior good?

Weekend: Dersha and I are Beirut Tourney 2k9 Champions.
Hasty Pudding was AMAZING. Dirty jokes and econ jokes all night long. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Notes from Development: [I love gapminder.]

When you put "children per woman" on the y-axis and "income per person" on the x-axis you see a downward sloping curve, which indicates that children are an inferior good.

Inferior good: a good for which your demand decreases as your income increases.
1) bus rides (when you make more money, you buy a car and drive...a hybrid, of course)
2) cup noodles (when you make more money, you say "F*** this cancer in a cup, I'm going to eat a meal cooked by Ming Tsai at Blue Ginger")

However, Professor Lucas says that children are not an inferior good. Rather, births are an inferior good. AND she told us that natural birth rate is something RIDICULOUS like 14 per woman. Madness.

So we were listing reasons that people decide to have children and here was our list:
investment in future
can't help it [lack of birth control, education, etc]
cultural norms
curiosity [to see what your kids would look like]

Do you think there are people with really low self-esteem who are thinking, if I have any love for children, I will not have any b/c they might look like me? Because I feel like if I had a really awful genetic disorder, I would not want to risk my kids being born with it. I'm not equating ugliness with genetic disorders, although studies have shown that better looking people tend to make more money. Just wondering aloud...

And of course, Professor Lucas had to remind us all of another reason:
b/c people like children and children bring them joy

at which point Evelyne and Annie and I were like, "oh yeah..."

Replacement fertility [the number of children each woman must have to keep population stable] is 2.1. So remember, when you have kids, make sure you have a little more than 2 of them...


  1. i used gapminder several years ago back when it was still in its infancy; when it first introduced the idea of "visual trend analysis," my data mining professors were standing at their little podiums with controlled spasms of their green laser pointers, feverishly exclaiming how wonderfully complex data can be pared down to such elegant visual representation...

    they were careful to point out nuances about trend analysis, particularly when staring at large graphs - taking note of logarithmic and linear representations of data. what appeared to me to be a boon for economists was in fact a gleefully disguised joy basket full of goodies for media sensationalists. i say this because the tool is so ridiculously powerful.

    when a piece of data mining or trend analysis software becomes so overwhelmingly modifiable with infinite amounts of global data, one is granted the ability to tease the data points into fine tracts of harvestable information that can obey any particularly interesting rule.

    on top of that, logical deduction can explain away any trend analysis situation of this magnitude. set the children-vs-income graph to linear representation, and it becomes more obvious why it seems like income increases as children decrease. the countries with more children are already inherently poor. these countries also maintain a level of necessity with regards to the number of children they rear - because they're mostly farmers. families of farmers need more children to work the fields. as you can also see, the United States is way out there, and this is because per capita income for the US is relatively high, whereas the per capita "children" is relatively low.

    ehh.. i could also be biased because i just love kids. :)

  2. i love kids too, just not indiscriminately. who knows if i'll even like the ones that i have - what if they're jerks?