One of Donald Trump's new ideas, mentioned in his CPAC speech last weekend, is creating a baby bonus scheme in the United States. Trump didn’t invent this. Other countries have baby bonuses; some discontinued the programs, arguing they’re a waste of money, while others have kept them in place. Although the program hasn’t received much attention or thoughtful consideration in the United States, it could make sense.
When Trump suggested the proposal, the media put more focus on the sexual innuendo he made as he touted the policy. Trump men are "so lucky" because he proposed a baby bonus. By this, he means that couples will be having more unprotected sex so they can have more children and cash in on this incentive. Was it funny? Yes. Was it also a good example of why suburban women find him off-putting? Yes.
However, when examining policy, it’s best to focus on the policy itself and not the person proposing the change. Generally, countries enact baby bonuses to raise their birth rate. Most western countries have a birth rate below the replacement level (2.1 per woman). Economically, this causes problems. It increases the burden of pension systems like Social Security and shrinks a country's workforce and tax base, leading to economic stagnation.
Countries may try to solve that problem with mass immigration, which can hurt social cohesion and fundamentally change a society. That’s not to say immigration is bad. Having some immigration is a net good for society. Even those who back a so-called immigration moratorium support allowing 200,000 to 300,000 immigrants into the United States each year. However, every country needs limits on immigration for many reasons, hence why even Bernie Sanders thinks open borders is a ridiculous proposal.
While baby bonuses temporarily boost a country’s birth rate, the bump typically isn’t permanent. If the program's purpose is to increase the birth rate, it is not an effective long-term tool, according to the Institute of Labor Economics. Yet, in the United States, it has the potential to be more effective and help solve two problems.
The United States is one of the few countries that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave. The federal government allows many women to take up to 12 weeks off after childbirth. However, only 13 states have enacted paid family leave, and not all those laws are in effect yet.
Just 40 percent of employers offer some form of paid maternity leave in the United States, according to Zippia. That means that most women don’t have access to paid maternity leave. Additionally, many men can’t get paid paternity leave. If the United States offered a $5000 baby bonus for each of the approximately four million babies born in the country each year, it would cost America $20 billion per year. Such a policy would help parents take some time off after the birth of their child, including lower- and middle-income Americans.
A baby bonus would also serve as a small abortion reduction policy. The United States has a substantial pro-life movement, even if most voters are not pro-life. Other highly-developed countries typically lack major pro-life parties, so abortion reduction might not be a top priority. In Spain, the 2500 Euro baby bonus that took effect in 2007 immediately caused a 2.5 percent drop in the number of abortions, according to the American Enterprise Institute. Even using the Centers for Disease Control’s lowball abortion estimate, a 2.5 percent drop in America's abortion rate would save about 15,000 lives each year. It's not a cost-effective way to prevent abortion, unlike contraception which pays for itself. However, contraception doesn’t result in people being born who otherwise would’ve been killed.
That’s a more effective pro-life policy than the 15-week abortion ban that Republicans like Nikki Haley and Lindsey Graham support because airplanes exist, and many women can fly to Canada, which has no gestational limit on abortion. Women can also evade that policy by having earlier abortions, and five percent of abortions occur after 15 weeks in many states. While Trump’s baby boom idea might not work, it could help many people. Politicians of both parties should consider supporting it regardless of how they feel about Trump.