Well, at least if you’re under 30 and live in Hungary!
Like many wealthy countries around the world, there is a baby shortage! Countries like Japan have been fighting this issue for decades. For others, like America, this is a recent dilemma that most still don’t know or understand. Hungary has known about their problem for a few years and has tried a couple of policies to encourage women to have more babies.
The first policy they attempted was to eliminate income taxes, for life, for women once they had four children. Yep, 4! As you can imagine, that wasn’t super popular. Also, they found that it takes a while to have four children! The new policy states that if a Hungarian woman has a baby before the woman turns 30, she will now be exempt from income taxes for life. That seems like a very aggressive policy!
The new policy just got approved in Hungary, so there isn’t a lot of data on the impact, but I’m guessing there will be many women and families who will take part. The estimated savings is about 17-20% more take-home pay for the women not paying income taxes.
Should the US have a similar policy?
We have a major baby problem in the US, and as Japan did two decades ago, we are mostly ignoring we have a problem. Young people are having fewer babies and waiting longer to have babies. The human replacement rate in the US is 2.1 to stay even with the current population. The US is currently at 1.7 and trending downward.
Why is a shrinking population a problem? Aren’t we overpopulated? It seems like fewer people would mean more for everyone else!? The thought being, “Fewer people would be more jobs and resources for those of us here.”
The problem is the math doesn’t work that way. Fewer people mean fewer workers. Fewer workers mean less productivity. Less productivity means less of everything. Japan’s economy has been flat to negative for two straight decades. Imagine being in a recession for twenty-plus years!?
The US needs both a baby policy and new immigration policies. We can not grow as a country with a negative replacement rate.
What could a US baby policy look like?
Here’s where it gets fun. I think Hungary, while aggressive, misses a ton.
One of the major issues that women and families have about having a child or multiple children is childcare. Hungary’s assumption is women will have a baby and then go right back to work to get that extra money. But in reality, the extra money will be eaten up by childcare. So, the truth is there isn’t any economic advantage.
To make a policy work, it has to work for both sides. The country needs more babies, and families need better economics that make sense and don’t burden them with crazy financial debt. The current cost to raise one child to the age of 18 in the US runs around $310,000, or $17,000 per year. That seems light as I know many families who pay way more than $17,000 a year just in daycare! And this doesn’t include college, which can run in the hundreds of thousands. Basically, you’re looking at $500,000 per kid. Who the hell wants that!?
Here are some things I would add to a US baby policy:
- Zero Income Tax for one of the parents, assuming the working parent is caring for the child and the other parent. Mom decides to stay home and care for the child. The other parent gets the income tax elimination credit. If both parents work, the higher of the two incomes get tax-free income, and they also get a tax credit for childcare expenses.
- Single parents with kids get tax-free income and daycare reimbursement until the child reaches school age, and then pre and post-school reimbursement once they reach school age.
- For every kid you have over two, all children in your household get free college tuition. So, you have two kids. You pay for college. You have three kids, or four kids, or five kids, and they all get their tuition paid for.
- Government-paid surrogates. For families who want children but can’t have their own, the government will pay for the surrogate cost. The government will also pay for your adoption expenses for you to adopt children from foreign countries to be raised in the US.
- Parents get fully paid six months of parental leave that can be used simultaneously or segmented for any baby births, surrogates, or adoptions. Let’s get these kids off on the right foot.
I know, how will we pay for this? I don’t know, maybe we buy one less nuclear fighter jet that costs $25B. The amount of government waste is colossal, I’m sure we’ll figure it out.