The Law of Unintended Consequences rears its hilarious head in unlikely places. The New York Times reports on a rash of women inducing birth in the last week of December to get the $500 child tax credit and other tax boons for the year that's about to end:
Unless you're a cynic, or an economist, I realize you might have trouble believing that the intricacies of the nation's tax code would impinge on something as sacred as the birth of a child. But it appears that you would be wrong.
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. (The day was in September during the other years; conception still matters.) Based on this year's calendar, there is a good chance that National Birth Day will take place a week from tomorrow, on Thursday, Dec. 28.
So 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.
By my calculations, about 5,000 babies, of the 70,000 or so who would otherwise be born during the first week in January, may have their arrival dates accelerated partly for tax reasons.
The article, worth reading in full, is charmingly headlined: "To-Do List: Wrap Gifts. Have Baby. "