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Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think Hardcover – April 12, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (April 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046501867X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465018673
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #458,018 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

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.”
 
Reason
“Economist Brian Caplan: Kids can be cheaper than you think ...so maybe you want more of them than you think you want. He makes the case for this controversial proposition at length in his fascinating and well-argued new book Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think.
 
Fabio Rojas, OrgTheory.net, Associate Professor of Sociology at Indiana University
Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids is a new book by economist and blogger Bryan Caplan. It makes a simple argument of extreme importance: you should probably have more children. Though this book is written by an economist, it’s not another cute-o-nomics pop text. It’s a serious book about family planning that’s based on his reading of child development, psychology, genetics, economics, and other fields. It’s about one of life’s most important decisions, and this is what social scientists should be thinking about.”
 
Kirkus Reviews
“[T]he author’s mission is noble—encouraging individuals to parent two or more children.”
 
Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate
“Original, lively, well-researched, and wise, this book could change your life.”
 
Lenore Skenazy, author of the book and blog, Free-Range Kids
“Imagine this: Parenting doesn’t HAVE to be a chore. Your kids are safer than you think, smarter than you think and besides—you have less influence than you think! So sit back, relax, and read this book with your newfound free time. The sanity you save may be your own.”
 
Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist and Adapt
“Provocative, fascinating, and utterly original, Bryan Caplan’s book overturns the conventional wisdom about why parenting matters.”
 
Wall Street Journal
“Despite its wickedly subversive premise, Mr. Caplan's book is cheery and intellectually honest. . . . And the bedrock of his argument is solid: Modern parenting is insane. Children do not need most of what we buy them. So, yes, the “price” of children is artificially high. . . . The best argument for children isn't that they will make you happy or your life fun but that parenthood provides purpose for a well-lived life.”
 
Motoko Rich, New York Times
Mr. Caplan, who has already been dubbed the ‘Un-Tiger Mom,’ writes, ‘While healthy, smart, happy, successful, virtuous parents tend to have matching offspring, the reason is largely nature, not nurture.’. . .  His argument may be refreshing in an era of competitive preschool admissions and hyperactive extracurricular schedules.”
 
Chattanooga Times Free Press
“In a nutshell, Caplan believes that parents put too much pressure on themselves to raise perfect children, when there is very little evidence that hyper-parenting does much good and plenty of evidence that it does harm by stressing parents out. . . . [M]ost kids just need a calm house with parents who love them, he says.  Deep down, most of us know that. And once you release yourself from the drudgery of perfect parenting, your kids will relax and probably flourish, too.”
 
National Review
“Even if Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids won’t actually convince people to have more kids, it serves as both a brief and remarkably well-written introduction to genetic research, and a guide book for easier parenting.  The Tiger Mothers of the world would be well served by reading it.”
 
Steve Silver, movie critic for The American Conservative
“[A] delightful book, breezy in prose style, but reasonably rigorous in its handling of the nature-nurture statistics.”
 
Washington Times
“Bryan Caplan’s book Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think stands as a bridge across an economic and psychological gap.  This isn’t your average parenting book spouting psychologist-laden babble about the inner workings of the human psyche, inherent selfishness and bearing children.  Rather, Mr. Caplan… hopes to persuade interested parties that it’s not only better to have children in the first place, but to have lots, or at least more than the number you originally were planning to have.”
 
The Atlantic, Business Channel
“A direct blow to Tiger Moms around the world… The Caplan Theory is a bit like the Ferber method writ large: If you stop worrying and let the kid be for now, everybody will be happier tomorrow.”

 

Art Caden, Forbes.com
“George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan is one of my favorite thinkers… I agree with the back-cover blurb from Tyler Cowen: Caplan has written ‘one of the best books on parenting, ever.’ Caplan combines his mastery of the economic way of thinking, a thorough command of the best and most relevant scholarly literature, a passion for his subject, and most importantly, his passion for his children into a book that is truly unique. If you are going to read just one book about parenting, it should be this one.”

 

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.

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.

Customer Reviews

The book isn't very well written and certainly doesn't meet academic rigor.
Aaron Thomas
Caplan's book is the perfect antidote to the zeitgeist obsessed with trying to be "perfect" parents in order to turn out "perfect" kids.
Jessica R. Manley
I'm not sure if I really will end up having more kids because I read this book.
Josh Gross

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

216 of 225 people found the following review helpful By Peas on Earth on August 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
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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95 of 107 people found the following review helpful By Zachary Gochenour on April 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
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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86 of 100 people found the following review helpful By Philip Maymin on 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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