Vantage point

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

...not even at a micro lebel

My response to a comment on the last post by seven_times_six

OK, let me get this clear. In your opinion, the problem is not that India has 1 billion people. The problem is that a family which earns very little has 5-6 members, right?

I contend that it is not a problem at micro, or macro level. Macro level, it is not a problem, as I have written on my blog. On micro level too, those who have a lot of kids do so with a reason.

Now tell me, why does a family have so many kids? Is it because they are ignorant about family planning methods or is it because they choose to have many kids?

While there might be a large number of families that do not know about family planning methods, my hypothesis (which you may choose to negate) is that most people have lots of kids because kids are seen more as a revenue center than a cost center.

In educated middle class families, a kid is purely a cost center. i for instance, was just a cost center for my parents. they spent thousands on my education, food clothing etc, and I left the house. Since kids are cost centers, educated middle class families have only a few kids.

In poor families however kids are a source of revenue. Whether it is a rural family, where kids help out in the farm, or an urban poor family, where the children work in restaurants, or clean houses.....or even beg on streets. More kids means more money.

Now why will a poor farmer have fewer kids? The state's flawed polciy on agriculture have already frozen India as an "agrarian economy". The smaller size of their holdings robs them of economies of scale, and the manual labour that their children provide is a key necessity for farming. So if I was a poor farmer, I wouldnt curtail the size of my family either.

And why will a poor slum dweller have fewer kids? He/she does not have a steady job, and every little bit brought in by the extra kids is extra income. Even if such a family was to have only one or two kids, their life will be tough.

As India moves towards a more urban-middle class society, the family size will reduce. And that is what is happening. The middle class, which has grown so much because of the state loosening its shackled, has caused a drop in the population growth rate. And it will keep happening. Sooner than later, we will plateau.

The real problem, both at a macro and a micro level, according to me, is the plummeting sex ratio.