A talk given by Jennifer Roback Morse on January 21 for the Acton Institute Lecture Series Commemorating the 15th Anniversary of Centesimus Annus at the Pontifical North American College in Rome:
So the European social model provides high wages and excellent benefits -- for the few who have jobs. The system excludes those who are not skilled enough to be economically productive. But everyone begins their lives being not very economically productive. In practice, this means that the young are kept out of the labor market precisely at the time they are most biologically suited to begin forming families. It also means that those who are intrinsically poor, due to disability or low intelligence, are also excluded from participation in the labor market.
The welfare state has also contributed to the marginalization of marriage. Living with parents is not conducive to starting a family. Age at first marriage is an important determinant of family size: A person who gets married at the age of 35, is not going to have as many kids as one who marries at 23.
But this is not the only impact of the social assistance state on fertility and marriage. The life-time assistance of the state displaces the economic function of the family. The elderly don’t need adult children to support them in their old age. Women don’t need a husband to support them if they do have a child. Husbands become a nuisance, because the government will provide financial benefits without the inevitable difficulties of dealing with a flawed human being as a partner. In this environment, children become consumption goods, an optional life-style appendage to acquire only if one happens to enjoys children.
The social model’s attempt to offset declining fertility levels by increasing family allowances has not succeeded and is not likely to succeed in the future. The range of government benefits offered to families is truly staggering. Among the EU countries, parents receive benefits for their children, allowances for a parent who has ceased or reduced employment, single parent allowances, new school year allowances, and housing allowances.
Actually, the part of the talk published so far only covers the problems - the proposed alternative will be published later.