Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Car seats as contraception (ssrn.com)
377 points by longdefeat 10 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 329 comments



I read through the underlying paper, and I don't quite understand their methodology. It seems like they're taking a bucketload of demographic information and then trying to control for every other possible factor that could affect fertility rates to isolate the effect of car seat laws. I'm skeptical that it's even possible to control for all of those variables. Even assuming that they perfectly model the factors they do account for, it's perfectly possible that there are more underlying factors.

Additionally, interpreting the results as t-statistics doesn't really tell us very much, as the variation between model and reality could easily be noise from the control variables rather than from a relationship between car seat laws and fertility.

I'm not saying the paper doesn't have any merit at all--I think the idea is quite interesting. I am just skeptical of inferring anything from the results, given that the methodology is very poorly described (and is so error-prone).


Hi, I'm one of the paper authors here. Happy to answer questions.

Here's how I think about our methodology. Car seat laws generate an unusually sharp prediction for births that can be distinguished from a lot of competing effects (not perfectly, of course, but compared with a lot of other demographic effects)

We're not testing whether the state and years with more stringent car seat laws have lower birth rates. That could be due to tons of stuff going on in those states.

We're not even testing whether the states and years with more stringent car seat laws have lower birth rates just for third child births. That could be relatively fewer things, but still a lot.

Rather, we're testing whether states and years with more stringent car seat laws have lower third child birth rates specifically for families whose first two children are below the mandate for their state and year. And this mandate is itself changing over time for both states and years, so we're talking about different ages of children in question depending on which state and year it is.

This clearly doesn't rule out everything. But the set of candidate explanations for what else could be going on for those specific families in those years is a lot smaller than the broad demographic effects we started with.


It seems like low birth rates are pretty correlated with wealth. It also seems like liberal states, which are generally wealthier, have much more stringent regulatory policies -- such as mandatory car seats.

How deeply do you understand these very clear confounding variables?


In terms of the general effects that some counties are richer than others, and some years people are richer than others, this will be captured by our fixed effects that control for overall birth rates for each combination of county, year, and number of children. So all effects are measured relative to other two child families in the same county and year. This captures the large majority of other regulatory and social changes that might be happening in that county and year.

Next, we also add income by year and income by county fixed effects. So if richer people in a given county have more children relative to the average of all two child families in that county and year, we'll also control for that. If richer people in a given year have more children compared to the average of all two child families in that county and year, we'll capture that too.

The point isn't that you need to add every one of these complicated fixed effects to find our result. It shows up in simpler tests too. It's just that you can control for a lot of potential confounding effects, and it still seems to be there.


Cool analysis! Two questions. 1) Will you share the software you used for this analysis? I briefly scanned the article Methodology, but didn't see names dropped. Forgive me if you mentioned it there. 2) Are you hoping to win an Ig-Nobel prize with this? :D


> It seems like they're taking a bucketload of demographic information and then trying to control for every other possible factor that could affect fertility rates to isolate the effect of car seat laws. I'm skeptical that it's even possible to control for all of those variables. Even assuming that they perfectly model the factors they do account for, it's perfectly possible that there are more underlying factors.

This is true, but it's true for almost every observational study, and IMO too easy a dismission. You can use this reasoning to dismiss, or more likely, to cherry-pick probably 95% of all scientific results from economic/medical/social/nutricion/climate science. Just imagine the actual mechanics of setting up a proper Randomized Controlled Trial of seat belt safety!

Back to the actual study, the reasoning appearch to hinge on the variation of outcomes between 1) having a 2nd and 3rd child 2) between car and non-car owning families 3) accross different states in the US with different introduction dates between car seat laws. Of course, their might still be lurking confounders, but the presumption that this is really caused by car seat laws sounds quite convincing to me[1]. I'd say the onus on sceptics in this case is to actually propose some possible confounders that might explain variation in all of 1), 2) and 3).

[1] Disclaimer: I haven't gone through the details of the paper to see if the idea is actually well executed. This paper is likely headed for a serious economic journal, where it typically goes through at least days of labor to scrutinise the execution/details/methodology in peer review. I'm not invested enough to volunteer for that.


Let's pick this apart:

> This is true, but it's true for almost every observational study, and IMO too easy a dismission.

It's also a correct dismissal. The vast majority of results don't replicate. It's super-easy to come up with results like this paper just by playing around with what you control for (with a 5% of a false positive each time) until you get the result you want. It's almost impossible to tell if this happened. There are many similar issues.

> You can use this reasoning to dismiss, or more likely, to cherry-pick probably 95% of all scientific results from economic/medical/social/nutricion/climate science.

And you should! You should believe results only once they've been replicated multiple times, by multiple communities, with multiple methodologies.

> I'd say the onus on sceptics in this case

The onus is on the people presenting the result, in all cases. That's the scientific process. The authors need to defend the null hypothesis as vigorously as you can.

> This paper is likely headed for a serious economic journal, where it typically goes through at least days of labor to scrutinise the execution/details/methodology in peer review. I'm not invested enough to volunteer for that.

Have you ever gone through a peer review process? Seriously?

I understand you're not invested enough to do that, but neither are the reviewers. It's a volunteer position with no credit or upside. Most give a cursory skim, and either accept or reject. It's no better than chance.

Seriously. NIPS did a study, and found it is literally no better than chance.

Of my own papers, I've only had one where peer reviewers did an in-depth read. For the rest, acceptance was completely random. Reviewer comments often have little relation to the actual paper (many reviewers just skim the abstract and the intro, and don't even fully read those).


> The onus is on the people presenting the result, in all cases. That's the scientific process. The authors need to defend the null hypothesis as vigorously as you can.

The authors posit plausible evidence (observed variance across states with different introduction dates of laws, car ownership, going from 2 to 3 children) that car seat laws was a deterrent to having more than 2 children. A substantial criticism would be to come up with some possible confounders or alternative model of the variation. Saying that it might be caused by anything is a low effort dismissal.

> Have you ever gone through a peer review process? Seriously?

Yes I have, on both sides. Maybe it differs by field, but I (and my fellow PhD students) took it serious enough that we rarely read and finished writing a peer review within a single day. (This was mostly on economic theory / methodology papers, where even understanding the paper can take multiple days.)


> Saying that it might be caused by anything is a low effort dismissal.

I am dismissing it as:

One paper = interesting hypothesis

Multiple replicated papers = theory

Multiple replicated papers, with substantially different methodologies = scientific fact

> Yes I have, on both sides. Maybe it differs by field, but I (and my fellow PhD students) took it serious enough that we rarely read and finished writing a peer review within a single day. (This was mostly on economic theory / methodology papers, where even understanding the paper can take multiple days.)

Interesting. I've worked in several fields, and if this is the case, economics is pretty special. Good on you!

It wasn't always this way. As an economist, you study incentives. Think about how to prevent your field from sliding the way others did. Right now, academic incentive structures dictate cursory skim, and cultures+behaviors tend to (often after many years) align to incentives. As someone in a field (apparently) further along that path than economics, all I can suggest is to act sooner rather than later. It's easier to preserve cultures of integrity than to fix cultures of the opposite.


I left academics more than 10 years ago. Much easier to earn a good living in industry churning garbage "conversion uplifts" and "data driven insights" and occasionally sounding smart on internet forums with low effort posts than toiling for days/weeks on peer reviews or months/years on publishing.

Lecture me again about incentives :)


Amen to all of that.

This conversation illustrates the challenges with the reproducibility crisis. There is a fundamental problem in how we do science and that problem is hidden by our everyday experience of how effective science has been. This experience colors our perceptions of almost anything that gets dressed up as serious science, including objectively serious science. The scientific process is idealized as this effective tool but research happens at the behest of imperfect institutions and fallible people. Institutions and people are driven by financial and reputational imperative as well as the ideals of their research goals. These can cut strongly against the interests of performing meaningful research and publishing good science.


At a minimum, one thing that we can hopefully convince you of is that our research methodology as designed is reasonably conceptually sound. If we're wrong in our research design, that's a problem regardless of anything else. But if our identification strategy is at least defensible if actually implemented correctly, that's a good start.

Having skeptical priors about research in general, whether incentives, error rates, or whatnot, is totally fair.


It is a good start!

I look at the first paper as generating a hypothesis. That's the first step in any scientific process. A few replications later, we've got a theory, and then a few more later, a fact. The first papers are as important as the rest of that pipeline.

What causes outright harm is:

1) Papers with poor methodology;

2) Authors overselling their results; or just as often

3) Readers / reporters giving too much confidence in preliminary results

To be clear, I was calling em500 on #3, not the authors on #1 or #2.

On a skim, I don't see obvious problems (but, then, I wouldn't expect to find them; most require a deep read). It's published in an open access venue, which is always a good sign. It also helps that you're from BC, which for the most part, (still) has a pretty good reputation for scientific integrity (there's been a rapid decline in scientific integrity over the past two decades, and that's hit the institutional culture across the river from you particularly hard).

So you're okay by me!


> You can use this reasoning to dismiss [...] probably 95% of all scientific results from economic/medical/social/nutricion/climate science.

Most researchers are incentived to churn out as many papers as possible. Most people who are making research grant decisions have little incentive to give grants to substantial science over insubstantial science that merely looks good. After all they're unlikely to face career consequences for funding science which doesn't replicate. Many of the people involved in the production of science are disincentivezed to point out problems with the process of science because science funding depends on science being highly esteemed, which only indirectly and with significant time lag depends on the effectiveness of science.

All this leads me to the conclusion that, yes, it is entirely possible that 95% of science in those fields (and maybe others) is junk.


> All this leads me to the conclusion that, yes, it is entirely possible that 95% of science in those fields (and maybe others) is junk.

I'm don't think that's farfetched at all. The problem though is that people will not apply uniform 95% skepticism to all studies. They'll just embrace or dismiss them based how how aligned the results are with preconceptions.


>Just imagine the actual mechanics of setting up a proper Randomized Controlled Trial of seat belt safety!

https://www.bmj.com/content/363/bmj.k5094


I laughed out loud when I got to this part:

> Intervention: Jumping from an aircraft (airplane or helicopter) with a parachute versus an empty backpack (unblinded).


also: "the trial was only able to enroll participants on small stationary aircraft on the ground, suggesting cautious extrapolation to high altitude jumps." :)

In realty I think a proper trial is supposed to always use the best known treatment as control.


> as the variation between model and reality could easily be noise from the control variables rather than from a relationship between car seat laws and fertility.

Especially when you consider that something like a state law mandating car seats is only gonna exert upward pressure on the cost of a kid for people with higher incomes. Basically the poors are gonna pile into whatever vehicle they have and the law can fuck off. Nobody says "gee we shouldn't have another kid because we'll need X, Y and Z' (one of those being a bigger car in this case). That's just not how people make decisions at that level. If you want a kid you get a kid and you roll with it. You know it's gonna be expensive but you just deal.

Controlling for income is really really hard since basically everything about lifestyle has some relation to income. Controlling for income with sufficient accuracy that you can tease out an effect that itself correlates with income is gonna be neigh on impossible when you're looking for something that's a 2nd order effect. This is like trying to predict trout populations in Canada by chemically analyzing reindeer piss in Russia. You can do it but it's an exercise in measurement and it's gonna have zero practical utility since sooooo many other things will have affects that dwarf those of what you're measuring.

I think it's far more likely that rear seats have shrunk and car seats have grown because fertility rates have declined and regulators and manufacturers are therefore emboldened to do things that would be laughable in a world where three kid households were more common.


> That's just not how people make decisions at that level. If you want a kid you get a kid and you roll with it. You know it's gonna be expensive but you just deal.

The way I think about it as that these laws only need to affect some families that are on the margin. Are there some families that are just on the fence and tossing up whether to have a third child? It seems likely to me. As long as this cost is a significant one, it just needs to move the needle for these groups to show up in aggregate effects. Lots of people will make the same choice either way, whether it's to have a third child or not have a third child. Our predictions are for people right on the margin.

>Controlling for income is really really hard since basically everything about lifestyle has some relation to income.

We use county-by-year fixed effects to take out the average effect of birth rates in that county and year, whatever form that variation takes. So if it's just that Cook County in Illinois got richer one year and so had more children, this will be absorbed by the fixed effects, and our car seat impacts are considered relative to this baseline. We also control for birth rates for that number of children and age combination, so we're comparing essentially two families with a six year old and a three year old, but in one state/year they both have to be in car seats, and in the other one only one child has to.


I am one of those people on the margin, and we specifically had a discussion about whether we wanted #3 enough to get a new car or not for exactly this reason. And the cost of these larger cars is relatively significant compared to the old Corolla I have now.


Did you read it before it was posted? It's a 50 page paper... I skimmed a few parts, and it looked plausible to me. For example, they studied the history of car seat laws in different states and correlated that with fertility data. If you have data from before and after certain law changes, and from states with/without certain laws, I can see how you could tease out the effect.


And yet even if influence of car seat laws can be fully proven, it will be an influence on the wish for not having a third child, not a means of pulling through with that wish. Yet the title claims the opposite. Contraception and motivation to use contraception (or motivation to avoid need for contraception) are not the same thing. Note that I don't consider this inconsistency a mistake by the authors but as a playful deliberation instructing the reader in how to read the article.


So taken to its logical extreme - was China's "one child" policy, where having any more kids after the first one was heavily fined - was that fine a contraceptive? Or not? I'd argue that it was, because it prevents pregnancy, but not in the biological "stops the egg from being impregnated" sense.


It would make having a third child more costly, not alter people’s preferences. (If chocolate bars double in price, that doesn’t influence your wish for chocolate. It just makes it more expensive to satisfy.)


And yet people would willfully avoid buying chocolate. You are deliberately putting desires and intent in a single jar, but they are neither the same nor interchangeable. Desires can be conflicting amongst themselves (it's not even rare) while intent is the aggregate of desires, necessities, and, yes, outside power. Contraceptives are a means of achieving intent, not of altering it.


Read only the abstract, but this sounds very plausible. Trying to replace my 2005 car, I am quite surprised current models of the same exterior size have much less interior space and many would not fit a young adult and 2 kids (my situation). Is there any engineering reason behind this? I would rather think there are commercial reasons.


I think a lot of it is crash safety ratings and interior airbags.

We fit three small kids in a 2004 Focus Wagon, but it was an exercise in finding the exact seats that would fit.


Crumple zones and airbags take space. Roofs that can handle the car being flipped without deforming enough to hurt you need chunkier pillars (I really lament this, makes visibility a lot worse)


Mine has all the airbags a current car would have, so I do not believe this is the actual reason.

It has a lesser crash rating than modern cars, but the reason is there are structural elements that drivers legs could hit in a crash (https://www.euroncap.com/en/results/honda/cr-v/15568). Basically I thing the car is too stiff for Euroncap, but it does not make it less safe in my opinion. Crumple zones are sized for standardized impact tests.

Acoustic stuffing probably takes much space two.

And I agree for the pillars.


I'm not sure why you're being so heavily down-voted since you're quite close to the truth.

Airbags mostly take up what on other cars was dead space behind trim.

Crumple zones #1 function is to buy time for the airbags to deploy between when the front of the vehicle starts slowing in a crash and when the cabin starts slowing. Think about it, if the cabin decelerated at the same rate as the front bumper the occupant would be half way to the steering wheel by the time the bag finished exploding and they'd get hit in the face with an exploding airbag. Crumple zones #2 is deceleration and is tuned for a specific speed of impact. They can be thought of as a single use coil spring without a damper. Too slow of an impact and they do little to nothing (no big deal because it's a slow impact). Too fast and you will blow right through your available travel and bottom out hard. Because the car manufacturers are not staffed by idiots they respond to incentives and tune their crumple zones to be most effective at crash absorption at the high end of the speeds they are tested at.

Most of the increase in "wall thickness" so to speak, of vehicles is from pillars and body structure that increases in width (to get more strength without adding too much material and weight). Then the trim is layered over that and that means you not only lose the space where the reinforcements are but over the whole vehicle.


I suspect the reality is improvements in structural design tools that permit the use of thinner metal for the chassis, provided that the upper body shell is less perforated with big holes to restore rigidity.

You see this with the ridiculously high belt lines that are "for safety" but have the convenient side effect of reducing the amount of glass.


>Crumple zones and airbags take space.

No. They really don't. You can shove airbags in anywhere and the passenger cabin is not a crumple zone and is supposed to be rigid. The reduction in interior space comes from fatter structure in the pillars and the various other reinforcements (for that cabin rigidity). Then you add fatter interior trim (to hide fat wiring harnesses and reinforcements and thick sound deadening while still providing clean-ish lines) and the effect compounds.


One of the interesting things about the feedback we've gotten on the paper has been the number of people who report that this problem is a pain for them, even if it doesn't rise as far as stopping them having another child. To us, this makes it more likely that this pain (if real) is actually deterring some people who are at the margin.


I mean, how does a couple make the third when there are already two car seats installed in the back? /s

(I buy the hypothesis. Just too much fun to not make that joke.)


My old 2005 Impala has less rear seat space than my 2014 Accord, so I'd swear the opposite of your experience. Maybe Hondas have more rear seat space than Chevys?


[flagged]


If you don't understand their methodology, you probably shouldn't be attempting to critique it.

There's an implicit assumption in your comment that the methodology is good, and that anyone who criticises it must be unable to see that. Have you ever read the story "The Emperor's New Clothes"?


No. I'm giving the benefit of the doubt to people who are educated professionals in their field who have presented research that likely withstood some level of editorial and peer review....over a random internet commenter who starts their comment with "I don't understand their methodology" and then proceeds to attempt to critique it.


I should have been more clear. By saying "I don't understand their methodology," I was hedging around the statement "their paper does not contain an adequate explanation of their methodology due to the nature of the complex systems they are modeling. By omitting information on how they constructed their controlling variables (and indeed the full scope of what variables they controlled for), the authors (perhaps inadvertently) cast doubt upon the conclusions they draw from their results."


Actually SSRN is a preprint server, so this has not been peer reviewed.


Has anyone ever told you that you can disagree with another person without taking an indignant and rude tone?


Because there are statistics, and there are bad statistics. Indeed, only professionals are qualified to make studies, but anyone having at least a basic understanding of probabilities and statics can point out a badly thought out one.


The rest of gp's post exhibits good understanding of statistics. I suspect they're actually more qualified than "internet forum commentator". And it's good to be honest about what you do/don't understand, the fault could be in the explanation...


Understanding statistics does not mean you understand science or public health or research.

"It wasn't explained to me, therefore it is invalid" is not valid.


Well... A. Perhaps this “Internet forum commentator” has more relevant experience than you understand, B. You don’t need to have years of scientific study to understand statistics and C. Plenty of bad science gets published every year in journals.


Tell that to reviewer #1 and see how far it gets you.


You could be the worlds best expert on X but a highschool student with some basic statistics could easily invalidate the experts conclusions.

And the highschool student would be right, and the expert would be wrong.

It doesn't matter how much of an expert you are if your conclusions are wrong because you don't know statistics.

If anything, an "expert" like that is actually a complete fraud.


Because internet commenters do not have other incentives at work like getting a grant or being tenured.


> We estimate that these laws prevented only 57 car crash fatalities of children nationwide in 2017. Simultaneously, they led to a permanent reduction of approximately 8,000 births in the same year, and 145,000 fewer births since 1980, with 90% of this decline being since 2000

Ironic... but a would-be birth vs. loss of life in an accident are immeasurably different things; incomparable.

As an slightly off-topic aside, I live in a rural area of Japan where, in my experience, most kids ride without car seats. In fact, small children around 3 to 6 often don't use seatbelts, instead standing between the seats or sit on an adults lap. There is a apparently a child seat law, but it seems a large number of people ignore it. I think the big reason is a lower accident rate, due to more careful driving.


> a would-be birth vs. loss of life in an accident are immeasurably different things; incomparable.

They're not incomparable, in fact they must be traded off at some rate, otherwise you could just dose everyone in the world with chemicals to sterilize us and say "well now there definitely won't be any child deaths"


This is clearly a case of “a difference in amount makes a difference in kind”. The complete sterilization of the human race is so different from “multi child households will be less likely to have a third child”. They are incomparable to actual living child deaths because they are theoretical vs real. A theoretical person is not a conscious creature. It is an idea in an actual conscious creatures head. It cannot suffer. Its value is measured purely in how it could affect society, positively and negatively, if it had have been born. A real person is conscious and can suffer and their death is a direct loss to them and those around them. That is not comparable.


Yeah, I understand this argument but I think it's bad philosophy. You need to think 4-dimensionally: everyone was a "theoretical" person if you go back far enough and making rules that harm people in the future but not in the present leads to wild temporal inconsistencies.

Perhaps it's clearer to think about a person-slot of a particular type in a particular time. If I go back to say 1930, you were probably just a person-slot, not an actual person.


Not only is the equation of deaths to would-be births obviously flawed, the notion of quantifiable independent factors in decision to produce a child is excessively reductionist. There are not 8,000 couples who thought "I am 99% ready for a 3rd baby, but the car seats are the deal breaker"

also to your aside, japan has uniformly considerate, alert, and obedient drivers, more than i've experienced anywhere else. The only exception seemed to be foreign cab drivers.


If you read their methodology they are basically proving people made that exact decision. It very airtight. I can definitely see safety conscious or risk averse parents making that exact decision or the decision to delay a child and then never getting around to it.


8000 fewer births per year is excellent from an ecological standpoint, though.


What has the impact been though from families that still have 3 kids and buy larger cars/SUVs than they would have otherwise?


Removing a birth removes a full lifetime of emissions (all the cars that person would have bought) as well as any future children of that kid; over the long term, the extra emissions from adding a person grow exponentially, while adding a larger car (for a kid that would have existed anyway) is a one-time fixed cost. So, as t->infinity, fewer kids is going to win from a co2 perspective.

So the question is just where the crossover point is (if any; the 8000 fewer kids might already simply offset any larger cars bought within the first year - i don't know). I suppose that requires estimating the number of larger cars bought for third children per year, and comparing to the yearly emissions for people as they age.


Not for those 8,000 would-be people .... And for their parents?


It isn’t negative or positive, because “would be” people are not real. They are an abstract idea in someone’s head. There are an almost infinite number of would be people. Every time a contraceptive is used, that is a would be person not born. Every time someone does not take the opportunity to have sex, that is a would be person not born. Every single egg not fertilized is a would be person not born. Those “8,000” don’t exist right along with the trillion other would be people, except in the heads of actual living conscious creatures.


This seems rather inconsiderate of all the people who would like to have children but decide they can't or shouldn't because of the cost.


It isn't inconsiderate because I am not talking about actual living people and the problems they have or the suffering they may be experiencing. They are conscious and are worthy of our concern. What isn’t worthy of concern is the abstract idea of “X number of would be people” because those aren’t actual living things, they are just a concept in someone’s head about a possible alternate reality where these hypothetical people could have existed. 8 thousand, 8 million, or 8 billion hypothetical imaginary children mean less than 1 real child. But the suffering of 8,000 real people that could not have a child that they wanted would be worthy of concern. The concept of the possible child, in and of itself, is not. Otherwise every month would be a genocide of “would be children” lost to the menstrual cycle.


Yes the authors here really sound like this is an argument to relax the car seat age, but that sounds like a ridiculous argument to me.

Do you think we should kill this random child if it would lead to (8000/57) = 104 families who can't afford a minivan to decide to have a third kid?


On the other hand, how many kids are killed by huge SUV's bought to fit the third child seat where the driver can't see a children in front of their car?


"Kill" is a very strong exaggeration though. Pretty much all the proper research I've ever stumbled upon claimed no measurable effect of child car seats or booster seats over the age of 8. First hit from Google today:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180105124030.h...


We don’t mandate 5 point harnesses in all vehicles, even though they would save far more than 57 lives. Life is a never ending risk calculation and a constant tradeoff between safety and convenience. There is a point where everyone would stop making additional tradeoffs but that is not the same as active killing.


And here there's no tradeoff. Saving 57 lives and having 8000 fewer births are both net positives.


It's just an insightful paper of an effect, well-proven and thought provoking. I don't think they are advocating for fewer car seats.


> Do you think we should kill this random child if it would lead to (8000/57) = 104 families who can't afford a minivan to decide to have a third kid?

Yes, it seems like a great deal to me.

EDIT: Though I guess you could see it as a form of eugenics; "pay this much in order to have a third child"; but then it probably disproportionately hits middle class families rather than those who are at the very bottom. Many things are like this.


I had one child and then twins, so I felt like I was just dropped into this.

I was pretty shocked turning up with car seats at a Mercedes dealership to find we couldn't get three of them across an E class even without using ISOFIX. IIRC it was slightly exacerbated by two of them being seats for babies.

FWIW we went with a Volvo V70. We didn't want an MPV or SUV.


What blows my mind is how much depth is required in the back seat. In most compact, economy, or sporty cars, put an infant seat or other rear facing seat behind the driver, and the driver is just about stuffed into the steering column.


It's almost as they should make cars specific for having kids. I think there was one model that had seat that folds out into child seat, but never seen anything like that (I haven't searched).

Also maybe there's a triple seat models rather than getting 3 singles...?


It isn't just "cars" many SUVs still have issues with putting rear facing child seats. In the last few years they have increased the number of months you need rear facing seat making it very likely you will have more than one child rear facing. The car seats / regulations / cars are just not realistic, and are made by people that haven't even tried to follow them.


Totally, I'm also 6'5 so definitely feel your pain there.

Quite a contrast from my memories of being a kid sliding about on the back seat of a Mini without so much as a seatbelt.


I also thought I didn’t want an MPV. Then I bought one and have never been so happy about a car.

They have such a terrible reputation but they are so practical with kids.


> I had one child and then twins, so I felt like I was just dropped into this.

Same.

> FWIW we went with a Volvo V70. We didn't want an MPV or SUV.

I've been happy with a "Compact MPV" (which I think is what the class is called). Currently Toyota Verso, previously VW Touran. Both fit 3 child seats in the rear. But it seems the compact MPV class is on its way out (e.g. Toyota doesn't produce the Verso anymore), everybody for some unexplainable reason wants a SUV nowadays.


The SUV trend for families is a weird one. I tried so many and they are mostly just large on the outside. And they don’t drive much fun either.


> The SUV trend for families is a weird one.

I once heard SUVs described as station wagons for people who didn't want to admit they'd turned into their parents.


I have three children, and our solution was the Honda Odyssey. It has a separate back middle seat with its own pair of car seat anchors. Yes, it's big on the inside. None of the other SUVs I saw had the middle seat anchors.


Could it be the perceived feeling of security?

I've been driving very small cars since I started driving. SUVs were rare and large pickups were usually only seen in rural areas. Today it seems as if everyone on the road has gone bigger and I feel very small in that car.

Whenever I'm stuck between several SUVs, often with the added disadvantage that the one behind me has its low beams on the same level as my rear view mirror, I can't say I feel safe.

If I were starting a family, I would definitely want a bigger car, even though I don't have any data indicating that it would be safer.


I had the exact same problem! One child and then twins, we measured our old SUV wrong and realized the night before the twins were born that we couldn't fit all our kids in one car. I was shopping for a minivan from the hospital :)


Once the kids get a little older, the Diono Radian RXT car seat DOES fit three-across in a large sedan. You can't put infants in them, though.


Actually, when forward-facing the Diono is wider than many other car seats because the back is flush with the back of the seat. Others have a narrower wedge behind the seat so kids in adjacent seats get more elbow room.


We looked around for quite some time before we found a car that fits three car seats in the back. (Mind you, we're talking European cars here, there's a chance our options would have been greater in North America.)

However, it only took us a little longer because we weren't keen on a (mini) van -- had we considered vans too, there would have been a lot more options, and they're often even more affordable than other types of (spacious) cars.

I understand that not everyone can afford to go out and buy a new car -- but if that is in your way of having more children, I'd say the reason was not the car seat requirement but cost considerations. And I think that's very much a reasonable consideration.

I don't buy the "only 57 child deaths" argument - besides obviously being ethically questionable, deaths is not the only thing you want to prevent: how about (severe) non-lethal injuries? The reason car seats are mandatory (and regulated, too) is not because there is a strong car seat lobby but because of the merits they provide. For instance, buckling up a child that isn't tall enough yet bears the risk of getting the belt wrapped around their neck instead of across their chest which in case of an impact is certainly not what you want.

You don't have to be a rocket surgeon to find the narrative of this paper questionable. Being a parent myself, I find it very hard to imagine a couple going: "Oh, we would so love to have a third child if it wasn't for that dang car seat problem..." Not that it's completely inconceivable but, I mean, come on...


> Being a parent myself, I find it very hard to imagine a couple going: "Oh, we would so love to have a third child if it wasn't for that dang car seat problem..." Not that it's completely inconceivable but, I mean, come on...

I and my wife have three children, and a few years ago we seriously considered having another one.

There were several factors that led us to give up with this idea (moving to a larger house, increased tuition costs, etc.), but surely the act of buying a larger car was something we listed among the cons, and it played a non-negligible role in our final decision.


I think your point of "cost considerations" is at the heart of what bothers me about this paper. The laws about seatbelts, car seats, etc. came at the same time as a general sense of more parental responsibility as a whole. A few decades earlier the cost of additional children was much lower in every way.


> I find it very hard to imagine a couple going: "Oh, we would so love to have a third child if it wasn't for that dang car seat problem..."

Maybe not - but imagine someone who likes the idea of having a third, but they know it would give them this much more childcare to do, and would put that much strain on their household budget, and they're not as young as they were a few years ago, and they could really do with an extra bedroom and bathroom which would mean moving house, and they were getting childcare from grandma and grandpa and two is enough to tire them out already? They might already have their heart and their head pulling in different directions.

Add on the fact they've got to spend $x0,000 on a new minivan, and it'll be a downgrade in everything except number of seats...


I'm not sure if you read my original comment but I am very sympathetic toward the idea that economic consideration can absolutely play a role in your family planning.


> Being a parent myself, I find it very hard to imagine a couple going: "Oh, we would so love to have a third child if it wasn't for that dang car seat problem..." Not that it's completely inconceivable but, I mean, come on...

Sure in that scenario. But consider other scenarios where the parents are right on the fence with their decision. At that point, even simple pragmatic considerations like number of bedrooms can tip it one way or the other.


But then it would still likely be a mix of different considerations. Certainly, no-one would go through their list and with all the boxes ticked except for "[ ] third car seat fits in our car" decide against having another child.

Like I wrote above, it's not completely inconceivable, I just find it highly unlikely that the car seat question alone should be the deciding factor.


Excellent word choice on that last sentence ;)


"We estimate that these laws prevented only 57 car crash fatalities of children nationwide in 2017."

This doesn't suprise me, and it's consistant with the feeling that western society has a problem of "safety at any cost". There is a one way ratchet with these types of rules because you can't be seen as the guy repealing safety legislation.


57 deaths isn't a lot (in statistical terms) but this figure reminds me of the missing bullet holes:

https://medium.com/@penguinpress/an-excerpt-from-how-not-to-...

How many injuries (some likely to be very serious) are prevented or otherwise mitigated by car seats?

I also seem to recall some old story about the introduction of helmets to combat and the "surprising" result of injury increasing (but can't find it now). As in of course injuries increase when the previous result would have been death.


Freakonomics did a good Ted Talk about why we probably don't need car seats for kids who are 7: https://www.ted.com/talks/steven_levitt_surprising_stats_abo...

And, did a follow up on exactly what you're talking about, although points out that their results differ from some other analysis: https://freakonomics.com/2005/07/09/more-evidence-on-car-sea...


This is definitely possible - we've only looked at deaths.

One point to note about the 57 deaths number. There's also an argument to be made that you should apply the same burden of proof to claims that car seats reduce fertility, and that car seats reduce car crash fatalities. In other words, some people are skeptical of our methodology, which is totally fair. But if you subject the hypothesis that child car seats reduce car crash deaths to the same level of skeptical prior, the evidence in favor of saving lives is much, much weaker than the evidence on fertility, in our opinion.

The 57 deaths is our best point estimate from the regressions, but in the vast majority of specifications you can't rule out an effect of zero. By contrast, we find pretty strong evidence on the fertility reduction, that we think is fairly tightly identified compared with other competing explanations.


Presumably if ~57 would have been fatal then there's also a lot of serious non-fatal injuries too


Not necessarily, if the distribution has a sufficiently long tail then there might not be all that many cases between 'minor injuries' and 'fatal'.


Even if we assume the numbers in the paper are correct, saving 57 children in a single year is a lot. I have a hard time weighing this against the minor inconvenience caused by the laws to require car seats.


I found it to be a pretty major inconvenience. Air travel in particular was quite inconvenient - having to either bring along car seats or otherwise arrange for them to be available on both sides of the flight.


If car seats existed but weren’t required, would you have chosen not to bring them? Or, phrased differently, was it just the legal requirement that caused you to bring them?


It's pretty telling that in many countries (e.g. the EU), child seat laws are relaxed in taxis. It's an acknowledgement that there can be a tradeoff between safety and convenience.

If it's OK to hold your child in the backseat of a taxi to the airport, why shouldn't it be OK to hold your child in the backseat of your friends' car on the way to the airport?

My guess would be that it's a question of numbers. You want 99% of kids to be in child seats, and can allow a few exceptions (since e.g. nobody does a commute to daycare in a taxi). But if you allowed private drivers to avoid car seats in limited circumstances, people would abuse that privilege and never use a car seat, turning that number down to 70% or lower


There is no fundamental "why". Sometimes a law only needs to get you 90% of the way to an ideal to satisfy legislators. We live our lives steeped in such procedural gaps, but to live any other way would probably become a micro-managed nightmare.


In theory, a taxi driver is a trained professional (like an airplane pilot) whose safety record, attentiveness etc is much higher than the average driver. In practice, probably not so much.

But when it comes to driving it doesn't really matter much because half the accidents involving two cars are someone else's fault.


I'm not sure if fault is that binary. Sometimes, you're right, the other driver is at fault and there is nothing you could do. But often, you can drive defensively in a way that protects you from even serious mistakes by others.


I have personally not been in far more accidents than I've been in just because one of the two parties was paying attention and took the correct evasive action. Sometimes that was me, sometimes it was someone else. This is only the cases I've noticed, there were probably times where I did something stupid and didn't realize it, and the other person took evasive action anyway, or even cases where I took the evasive action without noting the other person did something stupid.

We need to look out for each other. Nobody is perfect, but the better each individual does the better the whole is.


I think that part of the comment was a joke.


If not for the legal requirement I probably would choose not to bring them. In my opinion going for a few days without a car seat is an acceptable level of risk.


That’s fair. I don’t enjoy doing the double car seat lug, but I would continue bringing them even if not legally required. My kids are little, though, so that calculus would probably change if they were in booster seat territory.

I asked out of genuine curiosity, so I hope I didn’t seem standoffish.


When I don't plan to do more than 50 miles of driving on one side, I would definitely not bring them if there wasn't a legal requirement.


Most of your accidents will occur while you’re close to home, because that’s where you likely will do most of your driving. It doesn’t really matter whether you get into a 30 mph collision on the boulevard next to your house or one three counties over…


I think the point was about the risk per baby-mile. If you’re going to fly and rent a car at the other side, you should bring the car seats. If you’re going to a metropolis with transit and walkability, maybe not. If an airport is a long distance from home, maybe so.


Decades ago, when I started hearing bad statistics that emphasized 'within 50 miles of home', I always thought that it was saying multi-hour roadtrips were automatically safer.


this makes a lot of sense. sure, "anything could happen", even in 50 miles, but the risk of an accident when driving a short distance is much less than the risk of an accident when driving longer distances.

this is simular to how the risk of contracting covid varies across different exposure scenarios. i'm hoping the pandemic will get us more used to thinking of risk on a continuum -- which may result in more sane policies around risk management.


I fear, wrt Covid19, it's the reverse - so many people saying masks are [totally] ineffective because breath can get around the sides.

It seems like the brainwashing that's been going on to convince people that they can't like policies, they have to be either political party A or party B has forced some notion of absolute bivalency in all matters -- everything is treated by a large proportion of the population as either 100% right or 100% wrong, subtlety seems to be entirely anathema.

"Can a viral spore get out of a mask? 'Yes', so noone should wear masks, they're an evil plot!" seems to be such a prevalent line of 'thinking'.


on the flip side, after six or seven months of quarantine, even the "safety at all costs!" crowd is figuring out how work limited social time into their lives.


On the other hand, the risk of a collision on city streets is much higher than on a highway.


Didn't Levitt and Dubner establish that a standard seatbelt would be safe enough to class as a car seat for children over 2 if they weren't explicitly banned by law.


Would you mind linking that if you have it around somewhere? It seems quite doubtful that a seatbelt would work on someone who isn’t even tall enough for the sash to go over their torso…


Here’s the paper:

https://pricetheory.uchicago.edu/levitt/Papers/doyle-levitt%...

And here’s a pretty entertaining TED talk he gave:

https://youtu.be/um5gMZcZWm0


Someone let the airlines know.


Airline seatbelts are designed to restrain you from flying out of your seat in turbulence. They will do little to restrain your head from hitting the seat in front in a front-on impact, and have a good chance of causing injuries in any kind of impact. For that reason, if an impact is considered more likely than usual, you will be instructed to assume the brace position. (Note also that crew have proper harnesses.)


But those are lap belts, and also planes tend to have different issues than cars do.


if you're riding planes that are at risk of >50kph impacts, you should probably move to a different airline


IIRC, what they claimed is that there was no statistically significant evidence that car seats for children over two (i.e. not infants) saved lives.

I recall when I was young (before car seat laws), the car had shorter seat belts in the back. Almost as though they expected children to sit there . . .


When you were young back seats has lap belts but not shoulder straps.


That is true of the first car I remember, but the second had (child-sized) shoulder belts.


I believe so. The single largest factor in survivability at any age is just being in the back seat, ie further Way from the impact.


Way further from the windshield that opens to the pavement.


Most US airlines let you check carseats for free. What's the inconvenience, if you don't mind me asking?


It's just a very large volume of luggage to be traveling with. Two young children require an awful lot of luggage to begin with: diapers, wipes, food, changes of clothing, towels, toys, strollers, etc. And trying to keep them happy is stressful enough on its own. Add in two bulky car seats, which as I recall need to be checked at the gate so you need to bring them all the through the airport and security, and the whole experience can become downright unpleasant.


Car seats can be checked as hold baggage and claimed at baggage claim. In the US, I believe they have to be free (in any case, I never had to pay for them [nor strollers] and they never “counted” if it was just a car seat or stroller, even on Spirit).

We would generally bring the car seat onto the airline and have the child sit in the seat on the flight. It prevented some of the chaos of wanting to run around the airplane. “This is transport; just like in the car or other airplanes, you have to be in your seat.”

Needs a window seat (obvs) and the red sticker “approved for aviation use” (which the cabin crew did check every single time, which was impressive). Ask for a seatbelt extension and adjust the belt so the buckling is done on the side rather than smack in the middle of the seat.


Carrying it around, along with the other luggage. It's not exactly a convenient, portable thing.


You can use a fabric-only portable car seat.


No, not in America and not on airlines. Here those aren't a thing...


not a parent, but checking baggage is already an inconvenience. once I was old enough to pull my own suitcase, my family never checked a bag again.


So a pretty minor inconvenience, got it.


That's clearly a minor inconvenience.


Out of curiosity, have you had the experience?


> saving 57 children in a single year is a lot

Yes, but I think this figure was proposed in order to be contrasted with the reduction of 8,000 births that same year.


There's clearly quite a difference between dead kids and kids not being conceived, or condom manufacturers would by lynched on street corners.

We can argue if the lives saved by seats are enough to counterbalance the inconveniences they pose, but among this inconveniences I would not put the reduction in the number of third children - I would actually put that as a plus, as a super-soft demographic control policy.


> I would actually put that as a plus, as a super-soft demographic control policy.

It is not a plus, because in the US there is no need to control births. To the contrary, there are not enough births.


Why are there not enough births?


Sometimes there's only one candidate for a job and that person demands more than minimum wage. It hurts profit.


Births in western Europe are less than the amount needed to keep the population stable: the population of those countries is long term decreasing. (but there is often immigration to make up for it)

I think the US is about even, or slightly positive. But then the US has a lot less people than Europe on a per land area measure.


It also prevents 8000 kids per year from being born. The net effect is -7943 children.


Western societies don't aim for safety at any cost. The states place a cost on each life, and you'll feel that the numbers are too high, but they're numbers, backed by rationales and research.

I looked up the number for one country now, and the report that contains the number also contains references to four decades of academic literature.


You might be optimistic to think that car safety regulation is designed so as to maximise consumer welfare. See eg https://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/jep.24.3.233


Exactly, any regulatory decision large or small usually has a ton of research and thought behind it. An interesting episode of planetmoney goes over the history of how to quantify harm/ a human life vs the cost of protective measures. https://www.npr.org/2020/04/15/835571843/episode-991-lives-v...

Apparently the value sits at $10 million USD/ life now. If you take 57 babby * 10M / $200 / car seat = 2.8M car seats. There's apparently 3.7M babbies born in the US/ year. So I think if you accept these numbers it does still make sense.


I recently read that the number is €2.6 million euro for the Netherlands.


"a problem"

What makes it a problem? It's a choice. We value existing quality of life more than quantity of life. Who says that's a problem? Who said less new people is a problem?


Many countries are currently struggling, or will soon struggle, with the impact of an aging population. Less new people can be a serious problem.

Quite apart from that, just conceptually, "safety at any cost" is obviously a major problem. If the cost is higher than the benefit we shouldn't do it.


It is a problem because that "quality of life" depends on demographics. If there's a huge amount of old people relative to the amount of young people, pension systems turn into a Ponzi scheme. People that are paying into the system now will not be getting their money back, unless the next generation pays even more. Rinse and repeat.

And before you say "we'll just take it from the rich", please do the math on how much money the rich have, versus the cost of pensions. It's sobering.


Immigrations is a viable and already available response to this problem. Unfortunately most western countries are not willing to embrace it.


You seem to assume reducing fertility is a bad thing, hence the tradeoff with a small increase in safety is not worth it. I personally disagree. Reducing fertility rates across the world, without impacting personal freedoms, should be considered paramount.


I'm assuming you hold these views for environmental reasons? I don't think the quantity of human beings is a significant factor in the deterioration of our environment. We have plenty of stainable ways to provide for ten billion plus humans.

Most of the damage comes from unsustainable production. The amount of production happening per capita is increasing worldwide, and if we want to save the environment we have to enforce that production is sustainable.


> I don't think the quantity of human beings is a significant factor in the deterioration of our environment.

It definitely is. It drives demands for food, housing, and industrial development, which in turn put massive pressure on the environment. Displacement of bats because of human expansion, for example, is likely a factor in the appearance of covid19. The western way of life is destructive over the environment and will not scale easily if we are not careful.


> "I don't think the quantity of human beings is a significant factor in the deterioration of our environment. We have plenty of stainable ways to provide for ten billion plus humans."

We certainly can (and must) do much, much better at operating sustainable economies and reducing our per-capita environmental footprint. But it is unhelpful that the global population is still growing rapidly, consuming ever more land and resources.

Thankfully, as economies develop and standards of living increase, birth rates tend to decline. Current trends suggest the rate of population growth is slowing, and we will eventually reach a stable population some time between 2050 and 2100.

I'm certainly not suggesting we should be telling people they can't have children, but anything we can do to encourage sustainable family sizes and bring forward the date when we reach stability is generally a good thing.


Yes, it is a significant factor. In fact, the most significant one: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aa7541/....


I very much doubt that "we" have a way to provide the current "western" lifestyle to ten billion humans in a sustainable way. Because that's the "ideal" most humans on this planet are striving for...


The “way” is technology. Malthus famously saw exponential population growth outstripping linear growth in food production. Earth had an estimated carrying capacity of about two billion people as I recall, and it turns out that their estimates were pretty good by and large.

But, they didn’t account for technological takeoff, which allowed us to escape that linear production growth. Nearly half the nitrogen in your body came from the Haber–Bosch process.


The number of humans is almost certainly one of the main multipliers. If you halve the number of people I'm pretty sure you'd close to halve emissions and pollution and habitat loss. I think "less people" is easier to achieve than some global political consensus and the fall of capitalism. And no I don't think "sustainable" and capitalism anywhere near it's current form fit in the same world.

Protecting nature is not a market force so you need some other mechanism for that.


A quick google search suggests we need to cut emissions by 80%. For population control to be a meaningful play, we're talking about cutting the entire world down under 2 billion people.

And this is assuming people on average are responsible for equal amounts of emissions. But the rich are overwhelmingly bigger contributors on a per capita basis, and as automation continues it gets easier and easier for a small number of people to be responsible for a large amount of consumption.


It's not so much about energy as it is about growing food and consuming soil. While most of the world is still living in abject poverty, we are already over-exploiting some resources (excessive fishing and growing, for example), which is not sustainable. By the time everyone gets to achieve a "western" lifestyle, unless we reduce fertility rates, it's unlikely the Earth will be able to sustain us.

Some of this process seems to be somewhat natural, since fertility has historically fallen in line with economic and social development, but we still need to ensure this remains true. South America, Africa and Asia are slowly "coming online" and if we're not careful we'll be fighting over scarce resources before everyone has had a chance to experience wealth.


I think you're missing the far more obvious disaster scenario that the population keeps doubling. How are you going to reduce emissions by 80% if we have 15 billion people?


"Only 57 children survived an accident that would otherwise have died (in one year), clearly we should scrap laws that demand carseats for children"

This idea that something that is (at most) a mild inconvenience (make sure the children in your car are well-protected) equates to "safety at any cost" is plainly ridiculous. The same reasoning is at the foundation for why the US now has +200000 people dead from the COVID-19 virus.

"In the United States, 675 children 12 years old and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes, 4 and nearly 116,000 were injured in 2017. Of the children 12 years old and younger who died in a crash in 2017 (for which restraint use was known), 35% were not buckled up."

https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/child_passenger_safet...

So about 440 children died while buckled up. Suddenly 57 doesn't seem like such a bad number.


> This idea that something that is (at most) a mild inconvenience

The argument in the paper is that it's not just a mild inconvenience, but rather a complete showstopper for many couples, that they can't afford a larger car so they simply stop having children.

The argument also isn't between car seats and letting your baby crawl around the floor, it's about the upper age limit for kids that also have some degree of protection from regular seatbelts. AAP recommendations are that kids should be in a five-point restraint car seat until age 8. Nobody does this. Should it be legislated?


Wouldn't a five point harness be safer for everyone, adults included?


Not necessarily. I use a five point harness when I'm racing. With a helmet and a foam neck brace, I have walked away from getting T-boned in the driver door. But that extra equipment impedes visibility that I might need e.g. when parking.

I've driven a fully caged car from coast to coast (US), but from what I understand I took a risk. The harness and cage and restraint are all designed to with together. The human body stretches in a collision, so there is risk of head injury compared to a street car. I trust the equipment in the race car with my life, but there is a reason I don't drive one to work every day.


> The argument in the paper is that it's not just a mild inconvenience, but rather a complete showstopper for many couples, that they can't afford a larger car so they simply stop having children.

If they cannot afford a larger car now, they most probably cannot afford the cost of raising a third child in the coming years, so that they are dissuaded immediately instead of being into deep financial trouble down the road is a pretty good outcome!


> This idea that something that is (at most) a mild inconvenience

We don’t mandate 5 point harnesses in cars. We don’t mandate helmets in cars. Both of those are milder and would save more lives than having to buy bulky and expensive car seats and carry them with you so they can be used in any car you get in. The world is a never ending risk benefit calculation. We constantly make tradeoffs.

> The same reasoning is at the foundation for why the US now has +200000 people dead from the COVID-19 virus.

No it is not. Taking something that is orders of magnitude larger to try and justify your point is not exactly compelling.


In fact the US bans 5 point harnesses in cars (or did last I checked), the idea being they think people would drive less safe if they knew that level of protection, combined with they are harder to put on so less people would use them. I don't believe the arguments, but they exist.


I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out that COVID shutdowns and reduction in miles driven have saved 100 children and 400 or more adults from car crash related deaths in 2020.

Perhaps we should extend the lockdowns indefinitely; think of the children!


I would guess that there is also an effect where the frustration of having to strap a child into a car seat means that you end up taking less car trips with kids along. This would further reduce the number of accidents involving children compared to a no car seat world.


On the other hand America has a poor record with car crash fatalities compared to other similarly developed countries. It could do with ratcheting things up a bit further.


No, you just need to drive less.


The higher numbers of traffic fatalities in the US aren't simply because Americans drive further- American roads are more dangerous per billion vehicle km than roads in other developed countries.


I wonder what would happen if you normalized by SAT/ACT score (or something that stands in for education level).

Places like Germany can afford to prevent anyone from getting a vehicle that isn’t capable because of public transportation.

If you prevent a rural American from driving, that is a wholly different situation.


Drive less, train more, stop buying huge SUVs, improve traffic laws…there’s a lot we could be doing.


why not both?


Another example related to children - in 1993 guidance changed from having children sleep on their front to having them sleep on their backs. The result was a reduction in SIDS deaths from 0.13% to 0.035%. However the rate of kids having a flat spot on the back of their heads increased to 47% of 2 month olds. That flat spot pushes the rest of their skull forward and can result in a prominent forehead and misshapen features (iow, makes your kid ugly). Is the trade off between a 0.1% reduction in death rate worth a 50% chance of being ugly?


Are you really under the impression half of everyone is ugly because they slept on their backs?


If you ever tried to console a parent who lost a child while he was sleeping, you would want to reduce the death rate as much as possible, no matter how many extra uglies we get.


> 0.1% reduction in death rate

73% reduction in death rate, but also 0.95 percentage point reduction.

> 50% chance of being ugly?

No, a less than 50% chance of a condition that can (but does not always) produce ugliness.


Do you have a cite for that 47% figure?


That's... a lot of deaths, and a lot of grieving families.

If the same number of deaths happened at an annual event, it would be major news headlines.


Every death is a tragedy, but public policy is a balancing act, you can't spend infinite resources and goodwill (directly or by imposing costs on others) on saving every life, because you'll have nothing left for the next 10,000 lives you need to save.

Don't confuse newsworthiness with importance. The news cares more about novelty than consequences. Something like 700 children drown every year and that fails to make headlines, because it's not surprising.


At the same time, it leads you to wonder how many deaths were caused as as direct and indirect result of the seats and their associated costs.

I would guess it’s non-zero when talking in the scale of hundreds of millions of children.


If you guess it's non-zero, can you identify one such case?


> We estimate that these laws prevented only 57 car crash fatalities of children nationwide in 2017

That cannot be properly evaluated without considering second and additional order effects, like everyone driving huge SUVs to fit these child seats. All else is never equal.

> western society has a problem of "safety at any cost"

No, I think just America. Europe isn't so safety crazed.

For instance, it's common for Europeans not to wear bicycle helmets.


> > We estimate that these laws prevented only 57 car crash fatalities of children nationwide in 2017

> That cannot be properly evaluated without considering second and additional order effects, like everyone driving huge SUVs to fit these child seats. All else is never equal.

> > western society has a problem of "safety at any cost"

> No, I think just America. Europe isn't so safety crazed.

I would say that is a gross oversimplification. It depends a lot on country, on safety "area" etc.. For instance most European countries have much stricter laws around car safety (e.g. in Germany you have to get an extensive safety check every couple of years) and driver licences.

Regarding bicycle helmets I think this is much more a function of when the cycling culture developed in the country, e.g. in the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark biking has been a common way of commuting for a long time (way before helmets came about) and helmets are not that common, while in Sweden for instance most cyclists were helmets.


It’s extremely common for Americans to not wear bicycle helmets.


I'm not sure if there is a big cultural divided regarding wearing helmets for safety reasons.

Anecdotally it's most strongly driven by "competition" with cars:

- Small city -> Not that much traffic -> No helments

- Big city with lacking bike infrastructure/no strong biking culture -> A lot of close encounters with cars -> Helmets

- Big city with established biking culture -> No helmets


I think you have an inherent bias in your examples. There are bike riders outside of cities.


If you mean rural travel between small cities/towns, that's what I head in mind too with the first example (as that's the setting I grew up in).

If you mean sport biking (race, mountainbike, long distance), then you are right that I didn't consider those.


Since they don’t bicycle, you mean?


No, the ones that do bicycle frequently don’t wear helmets. The percentage varies widely based on city.


Yes, they just need to magically shrink the distances between cities


>No, I think just America. Europe isn't so safety crazed. Well, US are crazy about reponsabilities (the "objects seen in this mirror ...") more than safety.

The EU (generally speaking) tends to be more attentive to some more practical aspects of safety, as an other commenter noted periodical revisions/check of cars, or fire regulations tend to be much stricter than the US.

But - cannot say in other EU countries - here (Italy) we have our own forms of craziness.

Back to the children seats, we have now a new norm mandating an alarm (also via Bluetooth and/or SMS) on seats to prevent parents forgetting toddlers strapped to the seat and walking away after having parked the car.

Italian, not too bad on Google translate:

https://www.automobile.it/magazine/burocrazia/seggiolino-ant...

There were countrywide a very small number of child deaths for this reason (8 or 9 documented cases in the last 20 year or so), and while this is extremely sad it doesn't seem to me like it jutifies the provision.


Actually we just focus our efforts on making sure everyone has potable water.


No, I think just America. Europe isn't so safety crazed.

For instance, it's common for Europeans not to wear bicycle helmets.

That doesn't hold for the UK. Maybe it's spreading.


It's common to ride without a helmet in countries where cycling is a normal activity. Basically Netherlands, Denmark, parts of Belgium, Germany and France. Where cycling is mostly a leisure activity on the weekends and for enthusiasts, helmet usage is much higher.


I never considered the possibility of wearing a helmet on a bike in non-competitive settings in Italy. Only after I moved to the UK (and had children), did I start using it regularly. To this day I’m not sure whether it’s compulsory or not, but most people have it, so...


It's not compulsory in the UK to wear cycle helmets.

There has been the occasional attempt to pass such a law in the past, but none were successful. Cyclist organisations are very averse to helmet laws, seeing them as marking cycling out as some unusually dangerous activity, which in turn has an inevitable negative effect on cyclist numbers.


Temporary or permanent disability is also important.

As I won't pay Elsevier to read this article, I can't evaluate the (likely) methodolgical failings. Even major journals sometimes let papers with significant methodological flaws through, (e.g. the disastrous mistake of publishing the vaccine-autism fraud, which has cost many lives).

I do retrospective research of a different kind, and struggle with making causal inference from non-experimental data. This is an inescapable philosophical and scientific problem, and the very fact they talk about a "causal channel" (novel verbiage to me, btw) raises an eyebrow.

As a starting point, the publisher, SSRN, recently sold out to the Elsevier monster. SSRN, according to first line of its FAQ, "is a platform for the dissemination of early-stage research."

Why is this research "early stage?" I suggest it simply failed to meet submission standards for more reputable journals. This is hardly breaking news, likely just low quality work.

If I cared more, I would also, in addition to reviewing the actual article, check the credentials of the authors for bias due to religious, business, funding or political affiliations.

The authors force us to consider the competing implicit demands that people may procreate without external constraint, and that all children's welfare is to a degree the responsibility of society. On the first, what law doesn't (somehow, via a "causal channel!") affect people's ability to procreate?


> As I won't pay Elsevier to read this article, I can't evaluate the (likely) methodolgical failings.

So you haven't read the article but you think it's wrong, huh?

Well, good news: just clear your cookies and 'Open PDF in browser' gives you the paper, no sign up or payment needed.


My points all apply, even if I thought it did not warrant pursuing to the full text. I did not state the article was wrong, although I think it is quite likely to be worthless, and therefore not worth my time.


The increase in car seat requirements and sizes has probably also contributed to the shifting of consumer demand toward larger and larger vehicles.

Which has a host of economic and environmental consequences beyond the number of children.


Larger vehicles also lead to deadlier collisions. Rarely is anything a pure universal good with no tradeoffs.


Anecdotally this rings very true for me. Dealing with car seats is one of the most annoying and cumbersome issues of being a parent in the US.

However I will also say, for the sake of other parents who may be in a similar boat: Diono Radian carseats fit 3 across in our Mazda 3, which isn't exactly a big car. So if you find the right seat, you can make it work.

The biggest problem is the infant period where they have to face backwards. For that we went with a Cybex Aton 2, which was sufficiently "vertical" that the front seat passenger could sit comfortably. Everything else we tried required the front seat to be shoved way too far forward.


The Joie i-Snug 2 is the one infant seat with a snap-in base we found that would fit in our 2008 Ford Fiesta and allow me (1.65m) to sit comfortably in the front passenger seat. My husband (1.85m) can fit in that seat, but we’re not sure how great that’s going to be for long drives where we need to switch drivers.

We’re in Germany, which appears to have similar car seat rules to the US, along with increasingly large cars, but without home or public garages that are growing at the same rate. I’d like to replace the Fiesta with a hybrid Corolla wagon, but the current model is 5cm too long for our garage from the 80s.


What about paying to send three kids to college at about the same time versus two? Couldn't that be as big a consideration as the physical limits for fitting car seats into a car?


You are basically saying that having 3 kids is more expensive than having 2 kids, which is more expensive than having 1 kid... and that people take the extra cost into consideration before having a kid.

Indeed, they do, obviously. In many ways having a kid is quite a potent contraceptive (for having another kid).

https://www.statista.com/statistics/183790/number-of-familie...


That chart is highly confusing. For example, if a family has three children spaced 2 years apart, they would only contribute to the three children part of the plot for just over half the time that they contribute to something other than no children part of the plot.


You are right. Good catch.


If you're under financial aid thresholds that often doesn't matter. The financial aid formulas (at least when I went to college, overlapping with my sister for 3 out of the 4 years) were that the college figured out an expected family contribution, it was split between the number of kids enrolled that year, and then the college makes up the difference with financial aid. My sister's tuition dropped by half when I entered college.


I think about the marginal safety improvement vs the economic costs of car seats a lot since having kids. The biggest improvement, the initial car seat laws probably made things better. At some point though it has direct costs with things like booster seats running until kids are big enough (probably 3rd or 4th grade), and indirect cost like you may have to miss work because you can’t have someone without a seat pick the kid up.

All in all it’s different than it was 30 years ago, and more expensive to do relatively mundane tasks with your kids.


Each of my kids was over the moon when they outgrew the booster. Not having it there created so much more room as well.

Young child seats are nasty hateful things that skin your knuckles as you thread them in, and you too bang your head on the roof as you do it so regularly that it almost qualifies as slapstick


> Young child seats are nasty hateful things that skin your knuckles as you thread them in

For me, the first few months were the seat that just clicked out of the pram frame and into the car base [0]

After that was a rear facing seat that just sat in the car. Occasionally we'd move to another car, but that's just "unclick, move, click" [1]

Then it was forward facing seats which the kids put their seatbelts on just like adults [2]

What type of seats are you on about?

[0] https://www.pramworld.co.uk/maxi-cosi-easyfix-base-for-cabri... (or similar)

[1] https://www.kids-room.com/en/britax-roemer-reboard-child-car...

[2] https://www.britax-romer.co.uk/car-seats/highback-boosters/d...


There's a whole category of seats not covered by your links. Large seats that are forwards/backwards switchable so they last a few years. The seats are tethered to the safety latches, which although they are an "easy click" (two) can be quite tricky depending on the car and the tolerances involved. If the seat is facing forwards, it is also tethered to the sash belt, which I believe is the cause of "skinned knuckles" reference.

I 100% empathize with the person you replied to, and found your comment to be a bit dismissive in the "well I don't have a problem" fashion.


We have that kind of convertible car seat. Never had a problem with latches or straps (well, other than yesterday, when I had to take it out to fold down the seats & transport a piece of furniture). The car seat stays in the car, the kid plops down in the car seat, and then he either fights us over the 5-point harness or buckles it himself, depending on mood.

I think the big difference in perspective is whether you just leave the car seat in the car or take it out for every trip. I had a similar discussion on Facebook where I was like "Why does it matter how heavy the car seat is? It just stays in the car?" and then found out that a lot of people detach the carseats and lug them up to the house and back down every time they take a trip.

There's an element of privilege in being able to afford a complete set of car seats for each car you drive, but it totals about $300/kid (less for infants - many infant seats have a clickable base that's ~$100). If you can afford it I would highly recommend it - paying $300 to avoid daily skinned knuckles & schlepping 20-30 lbs. around is often well worth it.


> There's an element of privilege in being able to afford a complete set of car seats for each car you drive

There's more of an element of privilige for regularly being able to drive more than 1 car (or indeed for being able to drive a car anyway)


Booster seats aren’t really that bad, to be honest. Plus they can often serve as extra cupholders, although it may not advisable to utilize them as such if the two moving cupholders right next to them aren’t being careful.


Where I live (a country in Europe) the second hand market allows you to buy and resell (assuming reasonably good care) for a very small loss (stroller, car seats, cot) - we've done it several times... (we have sold them for around 70%-80% of what we got them)


Yes. Even putting aside the monetary cost of the seats (which if you buy second hand is fairly minimal - around £30 in the UK), the time-cost of researching and buying them, installing them (in yours, and grandparents' cars), taking them in an out the car if you're using the car for other things, doing up the fiddly catches on each car trip, is pretty high.

We have one child under two and I reckon it's probably cost a good (working) day of time in total, which quickly adds up when multiplied across the population. This should at least factor into the discussion when considering what the law should be.


Another way to look at it: I remember that 30y ago (in our Europe country) it was quite common to drive even without seatbelts in the back. Seatbelts were important in case of accident, but not needed in regular traffic. Traffic and cars are very different today, everything is faster and jittery. Nowadays, my experience is that seatbelts are needed always - they are securing kids even in regular traffic. And without proper car seat, seatbelt does not fit and function properly.


Hello fellow Czech. If you want to relive this, go to Bosnia.


Great point. With everything going on in the world and myself being a new father, I've recently reflected on the costs of these as well. We were gifted a "base" so that I can keep one in my vehicle and my wife can have one in hers, but it expires in a few months.

These things are expensive and lower income people often have to make due. Expiration dates / enforcement (if such a thing) add one more thing lower income families are forced to break the rules on.


Get a 360 degree seat once you outgrow the capsule...

IMHO seats are not expensive. We've got one of the best one and spread over 4.5 years it's half of what nappies cost.


What (dollars:life) value do you think is the cutoff point?

I wonder what the dollars:life cutoff value is across various policies, using (marginal safety improvement:the economic costs) to calculate it.


Here’s the EPA’s take, that a life is worth $7.4M: https://www.epa.gov/environmental-economics/mortality-risk-v...


NPR (I think Planet Money) made an episode on that few months ago about that. They've mentioned backup cameras don't make economic sense, but something along lines "if you run over your child a lot more dies" was said...


While they don’t make economic sense perhaps, they make strong functional sense. I was always proud of my ability to back into spots, but even I have to admit they make backing up a million times easier. I don’t want one for the safety, I want it for the convenience.


Government mandated them.


I see that the effect is concentrated in households with a car, but I wonder how much of this is due to the car seats themselves, and how much is due to the vast array of things designed for a “family of 4.” Restaurants take twice as long to seat a table of 5 vs. 4, venues have policies like “one free child per adult,” etc.... when we became a family of 5 everything immediately got much higher-friction. And we knew it was going to happen, and strongly considered not having a third kid because of it. Interestingly we are now considering a fourth kid because we’ve already eaten the cost of going to this high-friction lifestyle like getting the minivan.


LOL they forgot to factor in how many kids are conceived in the back seat of a car!


Awkward to do if the back seat row is filled with child seats.


I’d say it’s more awkward when the row is filled with children…


I had assumed that it was an article about bucket seats precipitating a drop in in-car conception. (Ala Cake's song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zip4QyJyD5g )


Yeah, I came in here thinking this was about seat law changes leading to less conception in cars.


I’d take it a step further and say that the car is contraceptive. Kids are much less stressful in a pedestrian-friendly setting. I can walk to downtown from my home, so we make trips there frequently (on foot) that we just wouldn’t make if we had to pile everyone into a car. I wish the US hadn’t designed its entire identity around the automobile.


Here’s an interesting twelve year old TED talk on car seat economics from Steven Levitt (freakonomics): https://youtu.be/um5gMZcZWm0


Reminds me of the birth interval in hunter-gatherers vs. farming people in prehistory. Hunter-gatherers were supposedly constrained in their birth spacing by the need to carry their infants when roaming around, while farmers had no such constraint and were thus able to out-reproduce hunter-gatherers.


I would imagine that the amount of available calories is overall the larger influence on which society grows and which doesn't. Remember that in most hunter-gatherer and farming societies, population stayed constant despite high birth numbers.


This is kind of mentioned in the interview I posted in the sibling reply, but I could imagine that this mainly drives down the density, but not so much the rate of growth. The reason is that grown individuals can actually usually feed themselves by roaming. What is hard is achieving a caloric surplus, which is why there is little specialisation and social stratification.


Also, hunter-gatherers supposedly breast fed for up to 4 years, which also tends to space children.

The invention and marketing of ‘formula being better than breastmilk’ is what truly shot up the number of children per family 100 years ago.


oh, interesting. do you have a source?


I think I read it in a Jared Diamond book, but here it is in an interview with him: https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/papers/2009/P8054... (page 5)


I mean, it doesn't take a car seat to tell you kids are expensive. You're saving 50% on child care costs already by not having a third child


50%? I can't come up with any remotely plausible formula that gives anything too far from ~33%.


I think it's 2*1.5 = 3 (3rd kid is 50% more expensive)


Ok, I can imagine how "avoiding a 50% increase" could be construed as "saving 50%".


If only the cost of having children were linear


In my experience, it seems to be sub-linear. Subsequent ones don't require all new everything.


Asides from car seat we've never bought anything new. We couldn't find a used seat that we liked. It's weird some people insist on new when accepting baby presents. All of the best toys we've got were second or third generation!


That depends on gender and age difference with sibilings.


Which just brings us back to linear again


You forgot to include the increased medical costs due to the higher probability of inter-sibling stabbings.


Applications are open for YC Winter 2022

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: