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Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think [Kindle Edition]

Bryan Caplan
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)

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Book Description

We've needlessly turned parenting into an unpleasant chore. Parents invest more time and money in their kids than ever, but the shocking lesson of twin and adoption research is that upbringing is much less important than genetics in the long run. These revelations have surprising implications for how we parent and how we spend time with our kids. The big lesson: Mold your kids less and enjoy your life more. Your kids will still turn out fine.

Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids is a book of practical big ideas. How can parents be happier? What can they change--and what do they need to just accept? Which of their worries can parents safely forget? Above all, what is the right number of kids for you to have? You'll never see kids or parenthood the same way again.

Editorial Reviews


Tyler Cowen, Holbert C. Harris Professor of Economics, George Mason University
“This is one of the best books on parenting, ever.  It will bring life into the world, knowledge to your mind, and joy into your heart.”


Judith Rich Harris, author of The Nurture Assumption and No Two Alike
“A lively, witty, thoroughly engrossing book. Bryan Caplan looks at parenting from the viewpoint of an economist, as well as a father. His conclusions may surprise you but he has the data to back them up.”


Robert Plomin, Medical Research Council Research Professor at the Institute of Psychiatry
“I loved this book. Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids should be required reading for parents—as it will be for my children, who are now having their own kids and getting caught up in the more-work, less-fun traps of parenting covered here. And as a geneticist, I can report that Bryan Caplan has the facts right. Even better, he interprets those facts in a way that will change our view of parenting.”

About the Author

Bryan Caplan is a Professor of Economics at George Mason University and blogger at EconLog, one of the Wall Street Journal's Top 25 Economics Blogs. He lives in Oakton, Virginia, with his wife and their three children.

Product Details

  • File Size: 573 KB
  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (April 12, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004OA64Q6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,646 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
207 of 216 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clarifying some misconceptions about this book August 3, 2011
I just finished reading the book, and then read through all the negative reviews. Basically, my sense is that all of those who wrote negative reviews misunderstood what the book is about, and instead focused on single statements taken out of context.

First: This book does NOT tell you that you should just put your child in front of the television all the time, because your parenting makes no difference. It also doesn't tell you that you should feed your kids fast foods, stop monitoring them altogether, or otherwise neglect them, because it won't matter. This is NOT what the book is about. The fast food and TV instances that (defensive sounding?) people seem to cling to like a last straw are given as examples in specific cases: If both you and your child are stressed out, and you're trying to force the kid to do something they don't want to do because YOU think it's important for their future (e.g. practice violin or go to ballet class), and you're stressed and screaming at them to do it, and no one's happy, THAT'S when the book suggests to relax, take an hour for yourself, and let the TV babysit. The idea is that a relaxed, happy parent, is FAR more important to a child's long term well being than an hour of ballet. And any parent who's ever been stressed (i.e., ALL parents), know that their stress does not rub off very well on the kids.

Second: This book doesn't say that parenting doesn't matter AT ALL. It says that REASONABLE parenting, with love, affection, attention, and fun times spent together is sufficient to let your child make the most of their potential. You do not have to be a SUPER parent, just a loving attentive normal parent, to achieve the same results.

Third: This book doesn't say everyone should have more children.
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87 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Selfish Reasons to Buy This Book April 5, 2011
I recommend this book to anyone who has ever thought about having children.

The central message of this book is based in simple economics. Right now you have some sense of the costs and benefits of having children, and you use this idea to determine the optimal number of children for your family. The book explains how and why most people are wrong about these costs and benefits: children are almost certainly less costly than you think, and they are probably at least as beneficial as you think.

Whether or not you're convinced to have more kids, this book contains practical parenting advice. Key to idea that having children isn't as costly as you think is that most parental effort intending to change a child's long-term outcome is wasted. Caplan cites decades of research in behavioral genetics to make his case, to borrow one of the book's best metaphors, that children are much more like plastic that responds to pressure in the short term and eventually returns to its original shape than they are like clay.

The curious but skeptical reader should be glad to know that Caplan devotes a considerable portion of the book to anticipating and responding to criticism. In the months of pre-release debates about the book I have not seen one criticism that isn't addressed in detail within the text. So even if the idea of the book seems nearly implausible to you, I still recommend giving it a shot: it probably addresses your objection directly.

On a personal note, reading this book convinced me that I should want more kids than before. For that reason I think it will end up being among the most influential books I've ever read in my life, without exaggeration. I hope it does the same for you, because (as also noted in the book) your children aren't only good for you, but they're good for the world. So go forth, get the book, be fruitful, and multiply.
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82 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bryan Caplan Say Relax April 5, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you do nothing else, just read the introduction. It summarizes everything, and is excellent. The book goes straight to the premise and evidence without any dancing or pre-selling. And the book concludes with hypothetical conversations with various real-world critics, which are also fun to read. More books should be structured in this way.

And in the middle, you get one jaw-dropping result after another that can be basically summarized as: RELAX. Your day-to-day parenting may have some short-term consequences but in the long-run, your children will basically turn out just like you. Want proof? You turned out like your parents, didn't you?

The book can be summarized with two results: one is that parental nagging or reminding or anything else DOES NOT AFFECT DENTAL HYGIENE.

This is pretty remarkable.

If you can't control your kids dental hygiene, a process that you can monitor and schedule and confirm -- meaning, if no matter what you do, the health of their adult teeth will ultimately be determined by genes anyway, unless of course you knock them all out -- then what hope do you have of affecting their grades or their IQ or their future income? Turns out those things too are genetic.

So Caplan's conclusion is, since your actions matter very little at the margin, just relax. Have some more kids and just hang out. Don't stress out.

I've read Freakonomics and Parentonomics and The Idle Parents and a bunch more. This is the clearest evidence-based parenting book that your actions don't matter (though the last two chapters of the original Freakonomics make essentially the same point about the importance of parenting essentially ending at birth, they do not go to the next logical step of recommending you have more kids).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars I was very disappointed with this book
I was very disappointed with this book, even though I'm a fan of Caplan's other work. It completely ignored most of the counterarguments to having more kids, such as:

1)... Read more
Published 24 days ago by Daniel F.
4.0 out of 5 stars thought-provoking, fresh perspective on having kids
With our third (and probably final) child on the way, the title if this book piqued my interest. As a somewhat seasoned parent, I can vouch that letting go of the desire to control... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mary Linton
4.0 out of 5 stars Get ready to get into a lot a fights when you cite this book.
There are a lot of great statistics related to the impact of nurture vs nature (or more pointedly, parenting vs genes). Read more
Published 5 months ago by I. Travel
2.0 out of 5 stars Not up to par; too fluffy of an analysis
I tend to agree with the author's general premise that parents today (myself included) tend to spend too much time fretting and don't get to enjoy their kids while providing for... Read more
Published 6 months ago by dadof5
3.0 out of 5 stars Makes some good points, but chapters 7-8 go off the rails
The author makes a very compelling argument in favor of a more relaxed approach towards modern parenting, and coherently explains how such parental adjustments can lead to both... Read more
Published 6 months ago by TL in Chitown
5.0 out of 5 stars Wacky but Great
Caplan is mostly insane, but what else would we expect from an economist. Nevertheless, this is a must-read for everyone who is thinking of reproducing. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Reading by Accident
5.0 out of 5 stars great book for any parent considering another child
I learned a tremendous amount about myself while reading this book. Top of the list: when deciding how many kids to have, I was only considering the short term costs and benefits. Read more
Published 8 months ago by therealtomrose
3.0 out of 5 stars Easy to Convince Yourself When You Only Argue...With Yourself
I'm glad the author is so enthusiastic about his kids, but he didn't really give me any solid reasons to have a bunch myself. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Dinogirl7
4.0 out of 5 stars A convincing case for why it is easier than you think to have more...
Bryan Caplan revels in being somewhat contrary, with lots of statistics and data to back up his "against the grain" ideas. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Robert S.
5.0 out of 5 stars Have more fun raising your children. Worry less.
Excellent review of twin studies concluding that parent can enjoy there children more, sweat less (at least as far as "baby Einstein" and other enhancement programs go).
Published 9 months ago by N. Weisman
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More About the Author

I'm a Professor of Economics at George Mason University and blogger for EconLog. My first book, The Myth of the Rational Voter, was named "the best political book of the year" by the New York Times. My new book, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, is on sale April 12. I've published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, American Economic Review, Economic Journal, Journal of Law and Economics, and Intelligence, and appeared on 20/20 and C-SPAN. An openly nerdy man who loves role-playing games and graphic novels, I live in Oakton, Virginia, with my wife and three sons.

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