Rafael Puyol. Vicepresident. IE Foundation
7 January 2010
Children are now such a massive investment that it is extremely difficult to consider having several. Just buying a baby buggy is enough to break any budget.
Around 1960 the American economist Gari Becker developed his famous theory of demand in which children were considered consumer goods, the acquisition of which cost their parents time and money.
The truth is that children now cost more than ever. A clear example is the price of those baby buggies they use these days to transport their kids or simply take them for a walk. They are precision tools whose operation is similar to that of a space station. They have a thousand handles, a thousand compartments for unnecessary items, a thousand accessories, and an astronomical price. My son Alfonso told me that “if you don’t have one of those, you are nobody. Look: I can make it turn 360º with one finger.” I wondered about why I would ever need to turn the buggy by 360 degrees until I realized that with a sudden circular movement I could spin-dry the child if undesirable wetness had occurred.
These buggies seem to have it all, but they are in fact still not perfect. For example, they could include a soundproofed cover for when the child is being a brat, with a little net (Afghan Burka-style) that lets the little darling breathe. A burping feature for after the meals would be nice, or an electric visor for curling the hair of the infant during its sleep without actually scorching the kid. There might still be room for other gimmicks that automate tasks that we currently do by hand, but in time all will come. We’ve come a long way since those buggies that allowed our kids to grow up healthy, strong, and straight…at least in those cases in which they didn’t cause permanent scoliosis. Today, our children are raised among cushions, anatomic pacifiers, rattles with Dolly Parton tunes, Limoges tableware for infants and other irresistible items. How are we supposed to have more children if a single one means another mortgage?
Maybe Gari Becker is right after all. The enormous investment we are required to make in our children can make us consider them as mere consumer goods.