A baby was born–lots of them
Posted by metaphorical on 20 December 2006
The idea of “blackout babies” is an urban legend, nevertheless,
For decades and decades, the busiest day of the year in the nation’s maternity wards fell sometime in mid-September. Americans evidently do a lot of baby-making during the cold, dark days of December,
reports David Leonhardt in today’s NY Times. But that was before increases in the 1990s in the tax benefits of having a baby—meaning a benefit to having your baby in December instead of January.
In the last decade, September has lost its unchallenged status as the time for what we will call National Birth Day, the day with more births than any other. Instead, the big day fell between Christmas and New Year’s Day in four of the last seven years — 1997 through 2003 — for which the government has released birth statistics.
Of course, there could be various other reasons.
to see if taxes were truly the culprit, Mr. Chandra and another economist, Stacy Dickert-Conlin of Michigan State, devised some clever tests. They found that people who stood to gain the most from the tax breaks were also the ones who gave birth in late December most frequently. When the gains were similar, high-income parents — who, presumably, are more likely to be paying for tax advice — produced more December babies than other parents.
Induced births and Caesarean sections aren’t really the best things in the world for either the mom or the baby, and they’re an added expense as well—a major expense that gets pushed onto the health care system so that the family can get a smaller personal benefit. There’s an easy way to fix this—Leonhardt makes the obvious suggestion of pro-rating the tax benefit to be n/12ths per month (1/12th in December). Or we could just fix the tax code entirely.