Webbs on the Web bibliography

Sidney Webb on the penalization of parenthood

Webb, Sidney (2005) Sidney Webb on the penalization of parenthood. Population and Development Review, 31 (1). pp. 145-155. ISSN ISSN: 0098-7921 ; E-ISSN: 1728-4457

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"The costs of educating and socializing children to take on adult roles in the economy and society are borne in part by their parents and in part, recognizing the substantial public‐good element involved, by the community or the state. The size of that public subsidy and how it is allocated across families of different incomes potentially affect decisions on childbearing — that, at least, is the assumption behind one category of measures seeking to raise fertility where it is very low. That the arguments underlying this area of social policy are of long standing is shown by the statement reproduced below by the prominent British socialist Sidney Webb. It is his evidence before the National Birth‐rate Commission, delivered on July 8, 1918. The Commission was set up in 1913 by the National Council of Public Morals, a self‐appointed group of prominent citizens. It issued a widely read report, , in 1916. However, the continuing drop in the birth rate (from 24 per 1000 in 1913 to 18 in 1918) led to calls for further investigation and to a reconstituted Commission. One of the terms of reference for this second deliberation was to consider “the economic problems of parenthood in view of the rise of prices and taxation and their possible solutions.” Sidney Webb's statement takes up this matter with characteristic clarity and conviction. Webb is exercised both by the overall deficit of births and, more particularly, by its disproportionate weighting among “the prudent and responsible, and those capable of foresight.” (This eugenic concern is spelled out more strongly in his 1907 Fabian Tract, ) Various ways in which “the economic penalisation of parenthood might be mitigated” are considered, including free schooling, public housing, and abolition of the “marriage penalty” in income tax. But he puts most store in “some system of universal endowment of children during their period of complete dependence.” (In its subsequent report, the Commission declined to recommend any such scheme.) Webb's proposals prefigure many of the social policies later adopted in European welfare states—with at best seemingly modest influence on fertility. Sidney Webb (1859–1947) was a significant figure in the history of social democratic thought in Britain. He was an early member of the Fabian Society and one of the group that in 1895 established the London School of Economics. As a member of Parliament in the 1920s, he held ministerial posts in the first two Labour governments. In collaboration with his wife Beatrice, Webb was a prolific writer on social problems and policies—notably trade unionism, local government, and Fabian socialism." - introduction to a republication of text taken from 'Problems of population and parenthood' being the Second Report of and the chief evidence taken by the National Birth-rate Commission, 1918-1920, London : Chapman and Hall, 1920.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Full text available at the link. Hardcopies of the 1920 publication also available in LSE Library - see librarysearch links.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2015 10:36
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2015 11:00

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