Berth / Birth Control was an intriguing report in The Economist this week which attributed the decline in the U.S. birth rate to the legal requirements for child car seats.
It caught my eye because it sounds a little strange, to put it mildly. However, when I read the article it made total sense, if a little bizarre.
Many States in the U.S., and I assume most other Western nations, have regulations about how and where children are transported in private vehicles. This usually means requiring them to be seated in specially designed car seats, which use the rear seat seatbelts to strap them in – seat and child. Sometimes the requirement is that the car seat be strapped in facing backwards for children up to a certain age, and then facing forward for the later years.
I was surprised to learn that many such requirements exist for children up to the age of eight.
The article went on to say that some research has suggested that, beyond the age of four, these child seats are likely to cause more injuries in an accident than regular seat belts. I would guess that it depends on the size of the child.
There is additional evidence that the most dangerous seat in a vehicle, as far as accidents are concerned, is the rear seat behind the front passenger seat. That evidence is based on the normal reaction of any driver faced with an accident, which is to try and turn away from it. That exposes the rear seat behind the front passenger seat to the on-coming accident – exactly where most child seats are placed.
WHAT ON EARTH HAS ALL THIS TO DO WITH BIRTH CONTROL…you may well ask?
Well! It turns out that it does, in a bizarrely simple way.
Most private passenger vehicles only have room for two car seats in the back. In the old days, you could easily crowd three, or even four, children in the back seat. Now, the law says they have to be in a car seat, and only two seats will fit, unless you have three rows of seats, and most vehicles don’t have that many.
That means you can only have two kids in a vehicle, up to the age of eight for each one. Unless you have twins, that means there is no room for an additional child for at least eight years and nine months after the birth of the first child. Realistically, probably more like ten years. Berth / birth control.
The article suggested that, for example, the U.S. birth rate, which has fallen from 2.12 in 1970 to 1.73 in 2018 correlates almost exactly with the introduction of ever more stringent child seat regulations and laws.
It is therefore tempting to believe that you could control population growth by using child vehicle seat regulations, but there is a potential issue with this idea. Is the relationship between child vehicle seats and the birth rate, real? I am reminded of the “Pink Elephant Argument”. It goes something like this. “I have a special powder that keeps away pink elephants. How do you know it works? Have you ever seen a pink elephant around here?” An example of unrelated, or coincidental facts that produce “logical” answers that are totally invalid. Another example I heard recently is, if an alien craft was circling the earth, monitoring human activity, and noticed that vehicle accidents were always followed by the arrival of an ambulance, it would be logical to assume that ambulances caused accidents.
More seriously, population growth is the biggest problem facing mankind today, and most current ideas for addressing it tend to be draconian – planned pandemics, mass sterilization, and genocide, come to mind. It would be nice to believe that there might be an elegant and non-draconian solution to the problem.
If we gave every family a four-seater vehicle, the problem would be solved. And everyone would be happy…..especially the car manufacturers.