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).
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.
How deeply do you understand these very clear confounding variables?
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.
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. 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).
 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.
> 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 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.)
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.
Lecture me again about incentives :)
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.
Having skeptical priors about research in general, whether incentives, error rates, or whatnot, is totally fair.
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!
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.
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.
> Intervention: Jumping from an aircraft (airplane or helicopter) with a parachute versus an empty backpack (unblinded).
In realty I think a proper trial is supposed to always use the best known treatment as control.
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.
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.
We fit three small kids in a 2004 Focus Wagon, but it was an exercise in finding the exact seats that would fit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(I buy the hypothesis. Just too much fun to not make that joke.)
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"?
"It wasn't explained to me, therefore it is invalid" is not valid.
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.
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.
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"
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Also maybe there's a triple seat models rather than getting 3 singles...?
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.
They have such a terrible reputation but they are so practical with kids.
> 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.
I once heard SUVs described as station wagons for people who didn't want to admit they'd turned into their parents.
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.
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...
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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
But when it comes to driving it doesn't really matter much because half the accidents involving two cars are someone else's fault.
We need to look out for each other. Nobody is perfect, but the better each individual does the better the whole is.
I asked out of genuine curiosity, so I hope I didn’t seem standoffish.
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.
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'.
And here’s a pretty entertaining TED talk he gave:
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 . . .
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.
Yes, but I think this figure was proposed in order to be contrasted with the reduction of 8,000 births that same year.
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.
It is not a plus, because in the US there is no need to control births. To the contrary, there are not enough births.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Protecting nature is not a market force so you need some other mechanism for that.
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.
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.
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."
So about 440 children died while buckled up. Suddenly 57 doesn't seem like such a bad number.
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?
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.
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!
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.
Perhaps we should extend the lockdowns indefinitely; think of the children!
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.
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.
If the same number of deaths happened at an annual event, it would be major news headlines.
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.
I would guess it’s non-zero when talking in the scale of hundreds of millions of children.
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.
> 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.
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
If you mean sport biking (race, mountainbike, long distance), then you are right that I didn't consider those.
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:
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.
That doesn't hold for the UK. Maybe it's spreading.
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.
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?
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.
Which has a host of economic and environmental consequences beyond the number of children.
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.
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.
Indeed, they do, obviously. In many ways having a kid is quite a potent contraceptive (for having another kid).
All in all it’s different than it was 30 years ago, and more expensive to do relatively mundane tasks with your kids.
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
For me, the first few months were the seat that just clicked out of the pram frame and into the car base 
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" 
Then it was forward facing seats which the kids put their seatbelts on just like adults 
What type of seats are you on about?
 https://www.pramworld.co.uk/maxi-cosi-easyfix-base-for-cabri... (or similar)
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.
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 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)
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.
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.
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.
I wonder what the dollars:life cutoff value is across various policies, using (marginal safety improvement:the economic costs) to calculate it.
The invention and marketing of ‘formula being better than breastmilk’ is what truly shot up the number of children per family 100 years ago.