Lion of the Blogosphere

Do car seat laws reduce fertility?

You used to be able to fit four little kids in the backseat of a regular car. But today, with car seat laws, you can fit only two. Many middle class people can’t afford to have more than two kids, because means that have to buy a huge expensive minivan to hold them.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 29, 2013 at 7:11 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

50 Responses

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  1. The norm in my fairly low cost of living area is that most mothers with more than one kid get a minivan to haul all the kid’s friends to activities together. Used minivans (especially American models) are actually pretty cheap. Many non-native born Americans and those keeping up certain appearances believe that only the Honda and Toyota minivans are acceptable. They have higher initial prices and higher resale values, so again, a certain lifestyle ends up costing much more (at least in initial required outlay). There are long involved threads on and other places about the ennui of picking a minivan (and if Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Hyundai, and Kia are barely acceptable alternatives to the big 2 Japanese brands or not, often the final decision is that they are not).


    August 29, 2013 at 7:21 AM

  2. It’s one of many things, but so is more expensive housing, summer camps, etc.


    August 29, 2013 at 7:50 AM

  3. Interesting. If this is at all real, I suppose you could fold it into the general aspect of “affordable family formation”, which has sharply declined since the Baby Boom era.


    August 29, 2013 at 8:02 AM

  4. Nah. There are cheap minivans — and also you could go used/certified with a more expensive one.

    The people with two kids usually drive an SUV that costs as much or more than a minivan anyway.

    It would be a problem if you had three kids very close in ages, but if they’re spaced apart, the older kid can be in a booster seat that doesn’t take up as much space, and you can get two other seats next to it in the back of a regular car.


    August 29, 2013 at 8:02 AM

  5. If anything I’d think they raise fertility, because modern car-seats (esp. when used with an iPad or other device capable of showing a video to a baby) are a great way of incapacitating the little busters.


    August 29, 2013 at 8:14 AM

  6. This is an example of how children are more carefully cared for, which reduces fertility. In the old days children got little individual attention and care, except the oldest son in better families.


    August 29, 2013 at 8:29 AM

  7. Our daughter recently gave birth to her third. We helped them trade up to a mini van.

    When our four kids were younger we had a station wagon that had bench seats front and back. We were able to fit 3 kids in the back (safely, according to the standards of the eighties and early nineties) and one in the middle of the front seat. They were always in car seats or booster seats, according to their weight. Then after my dad passes away and my mom sold her house in West Vancouver she bought a mini van for us. It was heaven–until my son got his license and totalled it! We bought another one with the insurance money, and my younger daughter totalled that one skidding on ice. Fortunately no one was hurt in either accident. I think it is good for new drivers to have a minor accident soon after they get their license because it makes them much more cautious and mature drivers . These accidents weren’t exactly minor, but they seem to have served the purpose. But I’m drifting off the topic.

    I think you may be correct–people may be limiting their family because of the size of their car. I don’t think it is necessarily the laws, but just safety recommendations and standards. That is, even if the laws were repealed most parents are still going to follow safety guidelines.


    August 29, 2013 at 8:39 AM

  8. Buy the way, the cost of a minivan today really isn’t much more then a car, and less than many cars. And you can always turn to the used market.


    August 29, 2013 at 8:45 AM

    • –oops…than a car.


      August 29, 2013 at 8:46 AM

  9. Minivans are not expensive (its hard to find any that are over 30K and a decent used one can be had for 15K). The price of a minivan is barely different from the price of a car. Dozens of different SUVs are available to choose from. Heck, a 15 passenger van can be had for a reasonable price for the truly fertile.

    Childcare is the really big deal. If the wife works, it is extremely difficult to have more than 2 children.


    August 29, 2013 at 9:31 AM

  10. I’m having my fourth child this year, and need to upgrade from a sedan to an SUV for the first time. It’s expensive, but I care deeply about having children. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

    When I was a kid, my parents were able to fit all seven of their children in a small Mercury Tracer, since there were no seatbelt laws and we could sit on laps.


    August 29, 2013 at 9:50 AM

  11. I’m guessing this is a troll, because marginal vehicle cost is a speck in the total financial commitment of raising a child. Eliminating my kids’ monthly non-school athletic expenses alone would get me out of my Ford and into a (new) LS460. Minivans (and 3 row SUVs) just aren’t that expensive, especially if you’re not above buying used. And a lot of cars can easily get three car seats in one backseat.


    August 29, 2013 at 9:59 AM

  12. Shouldn’t that headline be reduce fecundity? For a minute there I was worried the lap belt was overheating my gonads. 🙂


    August 29, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    • Me too, though I thought they were crushing ovaries.


      August 29, 2013 at 9:11 PM

  13. I’m confused. You mean you could squish four unseatbelted kids in the back of a car (I don’t think cars ever had more than three belts in the back)? Or pile a bunch of babies in? Are you complaining about seatbelts or carseats? If you account for all the lives carseats have saved, they would technically be increasing, or at least preserving, family size.

    My 7 seater van was 20k new ten years ago and still runs. And you can get used minivans for practically nothing. My dad is trying to unload his very nice van with leather interior for less than 5k.


    August 29, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    • You can definitely fit four small kids in the backseat of a sedan.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      August 29, 2013 at 8:19 PM

      • When I was in elementary school there was this family with ten children that lived a few houses down. Yes, ten. There couldn’t have been much more than a 15-year age difference between the oldest and the youngest children. Their house was this disgusting falling-down wreck, and both of the parents were disgusting falling-down drunks. You couldn’t have found a more perfect definition of white trash.

        Anyway, they had only one car, an old, rusted-out Buick sedan, and on occasion I’d see the parents and all ten children piling into or out of the car. It looked like one of those clown-car stunts at the circus.



        August 29, 2013 at 8:41 PM

      • Not legally anymore, alas.


        August 30, 2013 at 2:13 PM

    • How many miles does your dad’s van have?


      August 30, 2013 at 7:40 PM

  14. Dodge Grand Caravans are not that expensive, if you can deal with being seen driving one. I got a new 2013 model in April for about $20,000, the payment is $290 a month over 75 months. It is a longer loan than I would like, but cars last a long time nowadays (We also have a 2007 Caravan that is paid off and still runs pretty well). I have 5 kids. My wife wants another one. I am wary about it, though to be honest, I was wary about every one, starting with the 1st (yes, I am beta). Still, I hesitate to push my luck. We had the first three back when our insurance covered everything, and for each of the last two we had to pay several thousand out of pocket, which is difficult, and that’s only going up. I have no connections or job skills and a B.A. from a liberal arts college where the average reader of this site would be the smartest person in the history of the school (I at least came from the era where it was possible to pay off your student loans by your early 30s), so when my job is eliminated I’ll probably have to finish out my days working at a grocery store or cleaning the offices of alpha males for $8 an hour, and of course no college, no middle class marriage, no career, etc, for the children. Hopefully they’ll be able to enjoy the simple pleasures of meth and rutting with warpigs that will be available to them. Still, my wife is optimistic and has some talent for life and not being dragged into degradation of soul even in straitened circumstances, which being from a lower middle background with weak foundations of morals and character, I lack. So perhaps everything will work out.


    August 29, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    • If you have 5 you might as well have 6. I have 7 and I can tell you, there’s no real difference after 5 in terms of stress or noise level. Unless you’re UMC or above you should end up with better coverage under obamacare and thus avoid maternity copays.


      August 29, 2013 at 9:09 PM

  15. Minivans are huge, but they’re not expensive.

    The problem is that they are extremely uncool.

    In fact, in my neck of the woods, the only folks I see driving minivans are uncool Indians and Asians.

    The cool moms drive SUVs, which ARE expensive, especially the bigger, 7 passenger versions. They’re expensive to own and very expensive to operate.

    My wife’s minivan gets 26 mpg with 6 people and all the vacation crap. You can’t get to Disney any cheaper than that. 😉


    August 29, 2013 at 11:19 AM

  16. Ahem. I do agree that car seat laws and other such regulations reduce fertility in a general sort of way. However, as a father of three, who managed to use the same car seat for all three kids even while obeying letter-of-the-law rules, I will point out that our base-model minivan was not all that expensive. In fact, it was one of the cheaper vehicles we could possibly have gotten, despite its being great for us and filling all of our needs.

    Minivans are great, by the way; I don’t know why they have this reputation for lameness. When we got ours, more than one friend rolled his eyes at me and said, more or less, “Oh, you’ve succumbed to that, have you?” I don’t get it. To me they are symbolic of happy, growing families.

    Samson J.

    August 29, 2013 at 11:23 AM

  17. It’s no picnic in a minivan either.

    Ari Mendelson

    August 29, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    • I love ours. There’s sooo much room; it’s so easy to get the kids in and out; it’s great on gas; it drives well; and if you fold down the rear seats you can still have a picnic of sorts even in the rain.

      Samson J.

      August 29, 2013 at 9:39 PM

  18. My family just sold our used 2008 Kia Sedona to another family for about $10,000 and it was in great condition. It is a very cheap minivan that seats a family of seven.

    Minivans are cheap, although they are low horsepower and do poorly in bad weather. The expensive bigger vehicles for big families that are rich are the SUV’s like the Honda Pilot. But a typical prole family can afford a minivan. Also, the station wagon-style has gotten more popular since the late 90’s (I think the Outback started that trend) and they can fit a family of six or seven.

    Also, there is a (short) list of regular-sized sedans that seat three car seats in the back row.


    August 29, 2013 at 12:23 PM

  19. Speaking from experience, you can fit three children in the back seat of a a mid-size sedan.


    August 29, 2013 at 12:33 PM

  20. I believe your hypothesis is correct based on personal observation. Each of my three siblings has stopped at two children and have said that one of the reasons is that cars only really fit two car seats. I have four children because I’m comfortable being a scofflaw.


    August 29, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    • I think they were just rationalizing what they were gonna do anyway.


      August 29, 2013 at 10:49 PM

  21. I agree with you.

    I do think the whole seat belt crap is just another racket. The driver’s seat , and maybe the front passenger seat are enough in my opinion. I also think child safety seats do reduce fertility on its own, for the same reason cyclists tend to develop testicular cancers more often.

    It is just more rules to strap people and make them used to being tied around at all times.

    When I was young I traveled in the back area of a station wagon.


    August 29, 2013 at 12:51 PM

  22. Um, a used van is pretty cheap, so I don’t think that holds people back. Anyway, I fit my two kids and their two cousins in my Ford Focus ranging in age from one to nine with three of them in car seats in the back, so I don’t know where you get your information.

    not too late

    August 29, 2013 at 2:17 PM

  23. Having three kids, I can say that we only managed it with normal cars by not following “the letter of the law”. The car seat issue is but one of many things which have made it hard to have a lot of kids: Possible others include CAFE rules that killed-of the station wagon and an economy which requires both spouses in a marriage to work–with the daycare costs that come with it.


    August 29, 2013 at 2:18 PM

  24. Ok, but are there less child fatalities now? Having mandatory child seats is a tradeoff, just like it’s a tradeoff for cars being heavier than yesteryear (worse mpg), having more mandatory safety features (more costly), etc. The cost of transportation increases, but the negative externalities are reduced.


    August 29, 2013 at 2:42 PM

  25. In the ’70s, when I was a young kid, me and my brothers would climb up on the ledge above the rear seat and lay down on that while my parents drove to wherever we were going. Also regularly rode in the open bed of my dad’s pick-up on the highway. Back then, people used to cut the seat belts out or wedge them under the seat.

    E. Rekshun

    August 29, 2013 at 3:11 PM

  26. Car space is definitely a consideration for families but it’s not a deal breaker. Minivans aren’t that expensive and lots of parents with two kids already have a minivan or suv. No one is going to not have another kid because of car space.


    August 29, 2013 at 3:56 PM

  27. Did A cause B or did B cause A?
    Do car seats reduce fertility or did reduced fertility made it no longer necessary to carry three kids in the back seat so that made car seats possible. I’m old enough to remember the early 1980’s when the back of a pick up truck could be used for transporting passengers.


    August 29, 2013 at 5:41 PM

  28. In their current form, car seat laws essentially force any couple wishing to have more than two children to purchase a minivan or large SUV. It’s not just infant seats anymore. A majority of states now require children to be in some sort of child seat until they are seven or eight years old. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that children remain in rear-facing seats until they are 24 months old. Car seats are a pain in the ass, and daily dealings with them have diminished my libido considerably.

    Matt Watson

    August 29, 2013 at 7:04 PM

    • I successfully crammed three carseats (one infant, two toddler) into the backseat of a dodge spirit.


      August 29, 2013 at 8:59 PM

  29. Jonathan Last addresses this in What To Expect When No One’s Expecting. He calls safety seat requirements “Objectively pro-choice, but vaguely anti-family.”


    August 29, 2013 at 8:32 PM

  30. Several commentators have remarked that you can put three car seats in the back seat, and often you can. But it is a nightmare because the kids can poke and hit each other. Trust me, I have experience with this. You do NOT want to have three kids squashed together that closely. In the post I made above I said we used car seats in the 80’s and early nineties–but I should have said late seventies and eighties. By the nineties all my kids were out of car seats, and were in fact getting their driver’s licences and smashing our vehicles up.

    Minivans only came out in the 80’s, as I recall, and when they first came out they were quite a bit more expensive than sedans.

    Several people have mentioned kids riding without seatbelts or even in the back of a pickup. No one does this today except really really stupid and/or very poor people. It is the type of thing you might see near an Indian Reserve, in my part of the world. People from the third-world might do this, too.


    August 29, 2013 at 9:25 PM

    • Kids can poke and hit each other when there are two in the back of a full-sized SUV with an armrest between them. I know because I just spent 8 hours saying “keep your hands to yourself!”


      August 29, 2013 at 10:52 PM

  31. If you really wanted to protect your kids, you wouldn’t put them in a car.

    This article says that they aren’t any better than seat belts.

    Here’s an article on seat belts that says they don’t save lives either.

    Click to access Cover2.pdf


    August 29, 2013 at 9:31 PM

    • I have a two year old grand daughter and I would say she is simply too small to use a regular seat belt. The shoulder harness wouldn’t be in the correct place. This article was looking at data going back to 1975. The car seats back then probably weren’t as good as the ones they make today.


      August 30, 2013 at 12:56 AM

  32. Used minivans (especially American models) are actually pretty cheap.

    Nah. There are cheap minivans

    Buy the way, the cost of a minivan today really isn’t much more then a car, and less than many cars.

    Minivans are not expensive

    Minivans (and 3 row SUVs) just aren’t that expensive

    My 7 seater van was 20k new ten years ago and still runs. And you can get used minivans for practically nothing.

    Dodge Grand Caravans are not that expensive

    Minivans are huge, but they’re not expensive.

    Minivans are cheap

    Um, a used van is pretty cheap, so I don’t think that holds people back.

    I guess you got your answer.

    Samson J.

    August 29, 2013 at 9:34 PM

    • Hehehe readers should just cut LotB some slack. He is a single dude New Yorker. He probably thought bigger cars must be more expensive lol.


      August 30, 2013 at 4:55 PM

  33. The problem for me is that cabs in Manhattan only allow four people so with my three kids, you either have to hail two cabs or get lucky and flag down a minivan cab.

    Kirth Gersen

    August 29, 2013 at 9:44 PM

  34. I think “house space” is a bigger constraint that car space. What I see is that we seem to have arrived at some general consensus that each child is a special snowflake that is entitled to it’s own unique living space and personal posessions. If you watch a rerun from the 70s like the “Brady Bunch” you will see a solidly prosperous middle class family with 6 kids stuffed into two bedrooms. That’s not TV, that was reality back then. Nowadays it seems each child has to have his or her own bedroom, own computer, a TV, a cell phone, etc. etc. A status conscious architect would be embarassed as hell to live like Mike and Carol Brady in today’s America.

    Peter the Shark

    August 30, 2013 at 3:59 AM

    • I think the same thing; if you live in a city like New York, middle-class people simply can’t afford to have more than one child because a two-bedroom apartment is so expensive. If you have two kids of different genders, forget about living anywhere but the outer boroughs.

      I wonder about trends in fecundity among families who don’t own cars. Obviously 100 years ago, when cars were rare and railroad transportation was much more extensive than now, car ownership wasn’t a factor in family size. But today, if neither parent can drive a car, you have to live in a very central location, and real estate prices will squeeze you into a small space. The more space you want, the further you’re pushed into automobile-dependent suburbs. And in the suburbs, even if you find a home near a train station, social factors (school-related stuff, kids’ sports teams) basically presuppose car ownership by all parents and will leave you ostracized if you don’t have one.


      August 30, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    • To be fair, each child does deserve his own bedroom.


      September 3, 2013 at 12:12 AM

  35. Only poor can afford to have many children. Think about it.


    August 30, 2013 at 1:11 PM

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