Begging for Babies: Nations Pay for Men and Women to have Children

Last week Russia celebrated Make-a-Baby-Day! Yes, all workers were required to take the day off in order to stay home and make a baby. (And if you do so, you could even win a new car courtesy of the Russian government!) Sounds wacky? It shows just how concerned Russia is over its declining birth rate. France and Poland have devised similar social policies that actually pay mothers to bear children, compensating as much as $10,000 per year to do so.
Strengthening marriage and the laws that sustain it has become an important prerogative of societies around the globe. Some researchers argue that the adoption of gay marriage or same-sex civil unions in European nations appears to have weakened customary marriage, already eroded by easy divorce and stigma-free cohabitation.[1] Others argue that there is no proof of the sort, but even if marriage were declining in that part of the world, “the question remains whether that phenomenon is a lamentable development.”[2]
Family researcher and sociologist David Blankenhorn’s new book, The Future of Marriage, examines the health of marriage as an institution and the legal status of same-sex unions by studying recurring patterns in the data.[3] Blankenhorn’s recent article, “Defining Marriage Down,” distills some of that information. He notes that certain trends in values and attitudes tend to cluster with each other and with certain trends in behavior.[4] In analyzing different international surveys,[5] he found the correlations significant:
A rise in unwed childbearing goes hand in hand with a weakening of the belief that people who want to have children should get married. High divorce rates are encountered where the belief in marital permanence is low. More one-parent homes are found where the belief that children need both a father and a mother is weaker. A rise in nonmarital cohabitation is linked at least partly to the belief that marriage as an institution is outmoded. The legal endorsement of gay marriage occurs where the belief prevails that marriage itself should be redefined as a private personal relationship. And all of these marriage-weakening attitudes and behaviors are linked. Around the world, the surveys show, these things go together.[6]
Same-sex marriage and a marriage renaissance[7] do not appear to fit together in other nations that have moved ahead in the direction of changing legal norms for marriage. And in those nations that want to perpetuate their population with future citizens, policies that encourage child bearing and child rearing among heterosexual couples are more than just a good idea—they’re the law.
[1] Stanley Kurtz, The End of Marriage in Scandinavia, The Weekly Standard, vol. 009, Issue 20 in “Beyond Gay Marriage,” August 4, 2004.
[2] William Eskeridge and Darren R. Spedale, Gay Marriage: For Better or for Worse? (Oxford 2006)(replying to the work and research of journalist Stanley Kurtz on Scandinavian marriage decline and it’s effects on families and family law in those countries).
[3] David Blankenhorn, The Future of Marriage (Encounter Books 2005).
[4] David Blankenhorn, Defining Marriage Down…is no way to save it, Weekly Standard, Apr. 2, 2007, also available at http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/013/451noxve.asp.
[5] These include the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP), a collaborative effort of universities in over 40 countries, interviews 50,000 adults in 35 countries in 2002, and The World Values Survey, Stockholm Sweden periodically interviews nationally representative samples of the publics of 80 countries on six continents (over 100,000 people in all). See id. at 2.
[6] Id. at 3.
[7] A renaissance of marriage would entail strengthening and renewal of the institution of marriage in a society. See generally Symposium: Moral Realism and a Renaissance of Marriage, 17 Regent L. Rev. (2006).

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