Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Swing and a Miss

Found an old post of Jonathan Rosenblum's on Cross-Currents about the Israeli economy, and the effect it has on government subsidies.

Typically, the release of new poverty figures generates large headlines in the chareidi press, and the figures are seized upon as proof of the government’s failure in this area and of the need to return child subsidies to former levels.

That is not going to happen, I would guess, no matter how grim the poverty figures. Periodically, particular coalition constellations – such as the current government’s need to retain Shas in the coalition – may lead to a temporary increase in child subsidies. But there are important factors militating against a dramatic long-term rise in child subsidies.

By far the largest beneficiaries of child subsidies are the Arab sector: There are over twice as many Arabs as chareidim in Israel. Since the cut in child subsidies, there has been a substantial drop in the Arab birthrate (which, Baruch Hashem, has not been accompanied by a parallel drop in the chareidi birthrate). The decline in Arab birthrates is crucial to Israel’s demographic survival.

Aside from the creepy pseudo political eugenic implications from cheering that less money for Israeli Arabs is resulting in less Arab children, it also turns out that, well, Rosenblum's point is just plain wrong.

The total fertility rate in the country's ultra-Orthodox community has dropped sharply in the past several years, according to figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).


Haaretz continues:

...the fertility rate among Muslim women in Israel has also dropped dramatically, from an average of 4.7 children per woman in 2000 to just 4 in 2006.

Most of this drop occurred after the large reduction in child allowances, in the summer of 2003. The cuts mainly affected the allowances for new births. The National Insurance Institute allowances for each new baby is only NIS 150 per month.

The largest drop in fertility rates was recorded in the Arab sector in the southern district - in other words, among the Bedouin, where the fertility rate dropped from 9 children per woman in 2003 to 7.6 children in 2005.

So it turns out the biggest population drop is among the Bedouin in the Negev, who historically have been fairly pro-Israel. But such distinctions are too much work for Mr. Rosenblum, apparently. An Arab's an Arab, right?

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