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Parenting and personal finances

French President Nicolas Sarkozy visits a daycare center

The weekend Wall Street Journal article ran an intriguing article, Why French Parents are Superior. It's still No. 1 on its list of most emailed articles. It's a good read, adopted from Pamela Druckerman's new book Bringing Up Bebe. She writes with insight about why French children are better behaved than American children. 

However, the article minimized the role of public policy in helping out French parents. I couldn't buy it. Here's her "to be sure" paragraph:

Of course, the French have all kinds of public services that help to make having kids more appealing and less stressful. Parents don't have to pay for preschool, worry about health insurance or save for college. Many get monthly cash allotments -- wired directly into their bank accounts -- just for having kids.

But these public services don't explain all of the differences.  

No, they may not explain all the differences. But that is a lot of support that American parents don't get. Yes, culture matters. But institutions are also extremely important. I haven't read the book, but my reaction is, Well, maybe American parents would be more like the French parents you admire if they had all the backing of those services.  Oui?

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.
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