Baby boom

When last year’s ABS birth statistics were released, I doubted that the apparent increase in fertility was anything more than delayed births: it was older women driving the apparent baby boom, with age-specific fertility rates actually falling for women in their 20s.

But the 2007 statistics released today unambiguously report a baby boom. The total number of babies born was the highest ever, eclipsing the previous 1971 record, and every age group from 15-19 to 45-49 (even them, 506 babies, up from 438) is contributing to the increase. Women aged 30-34 were making trips to the maternity ward at a rate not seen since 1962.

Of course I remain a baby bonus/FTB sceptic. But I’d have to concede that a period of considerable prosperity for families, due in part to the rivers of taxpayers’ cash flowing their way during the Howard years, probably made a difference. From media reports of hospitals working beyond capacity, 2008 may break 2007’s record, and with many 2009 births already locked in it will probably produce big numbers too. The economic downturn will help us see whether higher fertility is driven by economics, or whether the cultural shift away from having children has started to reverse itself.

3 thoughts on “Baby boom

  1. What we need is genuine discussion on population growth in Australia. Should the $5000 bonus be available after the second child? In 2007 there was an increase of 331,000 people to Australian’s population (including net immigration being 56% of total)? Can we cater for all these additional people with our precarious limited water supplies and what impact does population growth have on greenhouse emissions?

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  2. Its not mainly the baby bonus – its more the massive increase in generosity of Family Tax Benefit, which the cost of which dwarfs the baby bonus.

    The lifetime financial penalty of childbearing fell, so for better or worse more people had kids. That was deliberate policy – it’s what the pro-natalist conservatives in the last government wanted.

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  3. DD – Yes, I agree entirely. As I understand the studies of paid maternity leave, there is as logic would suggest little obvious fertility boost from short-term payments. But the state agreeing to pay your bills for as long as you have kids – that could plausibly make a difference, especially when the familist bidding wars at elections encourage parental confidence that these are entrenched payments that will last the 20 or so years of looking after offspring.

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