Anorak | Economics is in absolutely everything, even having babies

Economics is in absolutely everything, even having babies

by | 28th, February 2013

THIS should’t come as too much of a surprise actually, that there’s economics in everything. For everything that we do, everything that happens, requires resrouces. As economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources, there’s therefore economics in everything.

Yes, even in the having of babies:

The data was collected from individuals born in eight different Finnish parishes, covering the 17th to 20th centuries, when a mostly-agricultural society did not have access to modern birth-control or medical care.

Dr Helle said that a mother who had six sons would live for a further 32.4 years on average after the birth of her last child, while a woman who had daughters could expect to die 33.1 years after her final labour.

He said: ‘The research shows the more sons you have the lower post-reproductive survival was. Biologically, there is a bigger cost associated with having a boy than a girl, so that is one explanation for the shorter lifespan.’

We know very well that there’s an economic explanation about the creating of babies: it really doesn’t surprise any of us that alpha men get their leg over m0re often. What’s also known, but rather more rarely acknowledged, is this idea that the having of male babies does indeed require more resources. We’ve seen this in reports from places where food is in short supply. The normal male/female ratio at birth (about 105 male to 100 female is usual) changes. Fewer boys as compared to girls are born. Which in one way, is very weird. Because we know that the sex of a foetus is determined by the sperm that fertilises the egg. Nothing that happens after that (well, OK, a couple of very rare developmental disorders aside) is going to change the male/female thing.
Except, what we do know is that to some extent (no, not as a conscious choice, not at all) the female body does indeed have a look at that foetus and at the resources that are around to bring it to term and raise it. When times are good the male to female ratio rises: when they’re bad it falls. For female children are indeed going to consume fewer resources while in the womb and afterwards. So, in tough times, it makes sense for the body to “miscarry” the male foetus and have another go trying for a female.
In one sense, of course this isn’t economics, this is simple biology. But the explanation lies in the consideration of resources and their allocation: so, yes, it is economics. All a long way from thinking about interest rates and the stock market but then that sort of “economics” that you see on hte TV is only a tiny part of the subject.
It’s also that tiny part of the subject that we’re not very good at, don’t know much about. But you already knew that, right?

Posted: 28th, February 2013 | In: Money Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink