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Ask a simple question about babies...

Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania don't collect information on how many previous babies the mother has had, only how many the father has had (including those in earlier relationships).

Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania don't collect information on how many previous babies the mother has had, only how many the father has had (including those in earlier relationships).

Guest blogger Peter Martin takes a look into birth statistics and what they tell us about the baby bonus.

They're fair questions. How many babies born last year were first children? And how many were second or later children?  We went after the answer with Thursday's release of the ABS births numbers because it would have given us a handle on the number of births who would get the lower $3000 baby bonus announced in the mini-budget for later children instead of the previous $5000.

The ABS hides a "sort of" answer in the "Explanatory Notes" page of its web release. It's Note 51.  The proportion of last year's babies who were first children was 43.8%, meaning most of the babies were second or subsequent children. (By the way 1.3 per cent of the babies joined five or more sisters or brothers)

Its a "sort-of answer" because it "excludes births registered in Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania".  That's because those states don't collect information on how many previous babies the mother has had, only how many the father has had (including those in earlier relationships).

Given that it is the mother who has the children, the Victorian, Queensland and Tasmanian idea of what constitutes a second or a third seems strange (and certainly won't be used by the government in deciding what size baby bonus to grant).

Will they change it?  Probably not?  Is the ABS stuck with what it gets from the births deaths and marriages registries? Probably.

But wait. ANU demographer Peter McDonald says the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has a much better data set it complies at the hospitals from nurses and midwives who actually ask each new mother how many children she has previously had.  But it's late.  The most recent publication is for 2009.  It's also a magnificent source of data, far better than the ABS publication. It details the length of stay in hospital, everything - even the most popular month for births, which is October.

Peter Martin is economics correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

4 comments so far

  • Paying a baby bonus of any amount is bizarre. The world is overpopulated and we need to find ways of reducing the birth rate. I say pay nothing on the first child and charge a tax of $5000 on all subsequent births. Offer free contraception, abortion and sterilisation as well.

    I am 57. The population of the world has doubled since I was born. And it has risen seven-fold in the last 100 years. It now takes just 11 years to add another billion people. This madness will not go on for much longer and the sooner we stop population growth the easier the transition to the inevitable zero or negative growth world that awaits us. Of course the current economic system doesn't work without growth, so we will have to work that out too.

    Commenter
    Saildog
    Location
    Blue Mountains
    Date and time
    October 26, 2012, 10:34AM
    • Please educate yourself.and see the whole story.

      Debunk the Myth
      http://www.pop.org/projects/debunk-overpopulation-myth

      Plus
      http://overpopulationisamyth.com/

      Commenter
      Free Thinker
      Date and time
      October 29, 2012, 3:47PM
  • It's great to see that so many families are having additional children so it costs them less than the 1st did each time. I wonder how many kids you need to have to bring your household budget back in the black?

    But on a more serious note, why the heck does the Vic, Qld, & Tas only note how many babies the father has had?? This seems real odd :-\

    Commenter
    Indeed
    Date and time
    October 26, 2012, 10:44AM
    • I totally agree with the comment from Saildog. Paying people to have children in a world that is totally overpolulated is beyond bizarre. It is also discrimatory. It discriminates against the single, people who can't have children and those who don't want them. I will state my position here, single and no children. Why should my tax goes toward people to claim the baby bonus then buy a large screen TV or waste in on some other device "we just have to have", rather then on children. I have a relative who gave birth and was hanging our for the bonus to pay the car registration!! Why can't I and others like me, claim an amount of money for not overpolulating the world.

      Commenter
      twinny
      Date and time
      October 30, 2012, 8:07AM

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