The IPA Review has published an article by me on what I call the ‘new familism’. The article tracks how since the 1970s the left and right have each developed their own ideologies of the family. Despite significant differences of intellectual justification and policy detail, left and right converge on significantly increased state support for people with children.
The table below from the latest HILDA statistical report highlight just how much those with dependent children improved their financial position in the 2000s.
The figures are equivalised disposable income, which takes account of how many people live in the household. It recognises that while additional people in a household add costs, there are also economies of scale in living together and that typically children have lower consumption needs than adults. Equivalisation allows us to directly compare the financial resources of different types of households.
Though these figures show that children still cost their parents money compared to the clearest alternative available to them (non-elderly couple, though this would include ’empty nesters’ so age partly explains the $$$ difference), the gap narrowed significantly between 2001 and 2007. In 2001, families with dependent kids were 25% worse off in financial resources per person than a couple without kids. By 2007, that had dropped to families with dependent kids being 11% worse off.
There is no income breakdown showing to what extent these figures are driven by government handouts to families, but I’d guess that this is the major factor. An element of conservative familism is that families maintain their class position despite the cost of kids – Abbott’s maternity leave policy is an example of this. But it looks like the Howard government had already made significant moves towards achieving this conservative goal.