The At-Least-One-Child Policy

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Weird things happen when government officials suddenly decide that older women need cost-free IVF babies. At the London Times, Alice Miles asks what it takes to get a taxpayer funded test tube across the pond:

In Durham you must wait four or five years, have a body mass index not greater than 30 and have no surviving children in your current relationship, before you are allowed IVF treatment on the NHS. Thames Valley will not treat a woman unless she is 36 and has never paid for any IVF treatment privately. In Norwich you have to have a body mass index no more than 34, no children from a previous relationship and must be a couple who have lived in Norfolk for at least two years. In Southampton City there are no social eligibility criteria; in North Dorset you must have been in a stable relationship for at least three years. In Rowley Regis and Tipton there must be no children on the maternal side; in Mendip there must be no children living with the couple and "no access to children from previous relationship". And in Cherwell Vale the couple must be non-smokers.

If you're already in the rationing game, some of this makes a certain kind of sense. Smoking and obesity lower success rates, and screening out those who choose to smoke and eat excessively seems fair enough. The thing is, you can smoke a pack a day and feast on–well, British food–and none of that will gum up the birth-giving machine like ageing will. Smoking isn't the problem; waiting until 36 is. It's not clear why the NHS considers that particular choice worth rewarding.

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  1. Smoking isn’t the problem; waiting until 36 is

    According to Steven Levitt in Freakonomics, children born to mothers ages 30 or older do better in life, presumably because older woman have accumulated enough resources by then to provide a better environment for their offsprings.

    So it’s not clear why delayed birth choices is would be a “partciular choice” not worth rewarding as opposed to, say, smoking, from the perspective of the government since children who do better in life probably will pay more taxes during that person’s lifespan.

  2. clone12 the irony here is that these women (aged 30+) have not accumulated enough resources – at least for IVF.

  3. Given the IVF price tag of about $80K, it is entirely possible that an accumulated disposable wealth of $0 at age 18 vs the same accumulated disposable wealth of $50K at age 40 is enough to affect how that child will end up in life, but not enough to have one at that age so as to optimize the total lifetime earning of that child.

    It may well indeed be the case that the UK government does not empirically make its money back in the form of increase tax receipts, but I don’t think that is foregone coclusion without looking at the actual data.

  4. “never paid for any IVF treatment privately”

    WTF? They’re actively discouraging people from paying out of their own pocket?

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