How a Culture of Child-Rearing Has Made the Israeli Demographic Miracle Possible

June 26, 2019 | Melissa Braunstein
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The Jewish state’s high fertility rates buck all trends among developed nations, and cannot be explained solely by the large families of Ḥaredim or Israeli Arabs. While insurance coverage for fertility treatments, generous maternity-leave policies, and the like may provide a partial explanation, Melissa Braunstein also points to a variety of social and cultural factors—and urges America to learn from the Israeli example:

Israeli culture starts from an assumption that nearly every family will have some kids and will need kid-related things. By extension, parents in families with three or more kids aren’t looked at funnily or quizzed about their lifestyle choices. . . . It’s understood that kids . . . not only will be but deserve to be in public spaces like restaurants. It’s also not considered noteworthy if graduate students bring their kids to class because childcare fell through on a given day. . . .

Many workplaces are willing to work with parents on work-life balance. It’s not uncommon for parents to work from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., rather than from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and many workplaces will host kids for a week after summer camp ends.

Public school starts at age three. The group that typically runs aftercare at the local school also organizes activities on days when school is closed but parents must work. Beyond that, museums, national parks, and malls all have kid-specific programming, especially during school vacations.

[Perhaps most importantly], “free-range parenting” is the national default position. Kids are independent from young ages, arranging and ferrying themselves to playdates. A six- or seven-year-old walks to the corner store with friends for ice cream. Ten-year-olds regularly cross Tel Aviv on scooters or on the bus with friends. Parenting in Israel offers more freedom to both kids and parents. It also seems to result in happier parents with more kids.

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