If we use the lense of a redistributive social democrat, then any bonus paid to the rich is a form of fiscal leakage and middle class welfare. They are misallocations of resources better spent elsewhere particularly in this season of budget shortfalls, when the government will have to borrow to fund social programs.
Women who showed a "significant increase in first births" after the baby bonus were teenagers of average socio-economic status, but also those in rural areas in their teens or early 20s, and "average or advantaged" women aged 30-44 who lived in city areas.
For women who already had one child but then had another the increase "occurred predominantly among younger women of low and average socio-economic status", the authors write. The increase in third or subsequent births occurred across all ages.
Contrary to popular criticism of the baby bonus scheme, the authors "did not find ... the increase in births only occurred in low socio-economic or disadvantaged groups (emphasis mine)".
Since child services (the commodity produced with children) is a time intensive commodity, high wage women face a higher price of children than do low wage women (emphasis mine). Also, as labor force opportunities improve for women, in part because of more equal distribution of education, women find it more costly to have children.This explains why fertility rates in poor countries are higher and why rich countries are ageing as a result of low birth rates to begin with. If we are to take Becker’s principles to heart, this would mean that the baby bonus, rather than being “capped” should actually be set as a proportion of the woman’s wages for it to deliver the biggest (fertility) boom for each buck spent. Politically of course this would be a non-starter, but perhaps there is a workable alternative.
For example, the rise in teenage pregnancies particularly from disadvantaged youth lies on the opposite side of the continuum to career women. The evidence supports the theory that child-rearing would be more attractive to them particularly with the bonus. What is at stake here is not just the well-being of these mothers but of their children, since future educational and health conditions of children have been found to correlate well with the educational levels of parents, particularly that of moms.
A pragmatic Solomonic solution to the policy dilemma would be to provide an age, as well as incomes/means test for the bonus. This way, the government can say it has been both fiscally and socially responsible by correcting some of the unintended consequences of the previous government’s policy of encouraging teenage pregnancy while attending to the wishes of those who believe that the rich can fend for themselves in these troubled economic times.