Every 12 years, there's a spike in births among certain communities across the globe, including the U.S. Why? Because the Year of the Dragon, according to Chinese folk belief, confers power, fortune, and more. We look at what happens to Dragon babies when they grow up, and why timing your kid's birth based on the zodiac isn't as ridiculous it sounds.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
If you'd like to listen to free economic radio without ads the place to do that is sticker premium five dollars a month and you can get free month trial by going to stick your premium dot com and use a promo code freak. You also get access to all our bonus. Episodes and you'll be supporting our show to that sticker premium. Dot, com, promo code, freak thanks. From an american perspective, the most amazing story of the two thousand Eating winter Olympics was the story of Chloe Kim seventeen year old. Gold medal snowboarder from California. It wasn't only though she was so.
a young and so so good at her spore. Wasn't only that she's so likeable an so calm under pressure, so rare that people can live up to the high absently. Did that wasn't? Nor was it just the fact that her korean immigrant families, especially your father, had devoted themselves so through, to her olympic? Go tell me so much on this crazy journey and giving up his job and liked being away from my mom and being away from home for that much just because of me. Now the most amazing part the clue incomes or is it her story was destined to happen. why, because Chloe came, is a dragon child, a trait she was born in April two thousand during the auspicious year of dragon, and that is what her father reminded her by text the days
going for the texture this morning is the time to be a problem. This is the time to be bad did Kim really when a gold medal, because she's a dragon child course. That's not how the world works. Is it what if we told you that idea is not is absurd, as it sounds. That's coming up right after that, here was with me from W and why see studios this is freakin mix. Radio the pod cast had explores the hidden side of everything. Here's your house, Stephen, that no soul it started the beginning. Tell us first of all what
a dragon baby is and why this was of interest to you as an economist, so the chinese Zodiac is based on the lunar calendar and they have a bunch of different animals for every year, people afraid of things like the earth to pig dear the rabbit. But of the chinese Zodiac, the only mythical creature is the dragon, John Nigh an economist, George Mason University and treated Julie in chinese belief, the children, bringing the dragon here are smarter, luckier, more likely the successful etc again represents power. Leadership and good fortune, and that's genially, a professor of education, Brown, but extremely powerful for chinese culture. The emperor's in Europe ever since the beginning cleaned they are associated with these powerful are creatures only his robe, we'll have dragged on it there.
Be a lot of regional differences in terms of superstitions about different years. the one that seem to unite every place we looked at in which ethnic chinese grins responded to this zoological signs. It seemed to be the dragon. Was the common denominator? John? What's yours, Zodiac Animal, I'm a pig, What are the fortunes? Are misfortunes historically associated with the year the pig I believe pigs are stubborn, but smart tend to be very friendly, but also have other kinds of difficulties due to their mixed stuff earn personality as well as being very, very rigorous, but at the same time clever. Something like this, Now we ve only just met, but something in your tone of voice suggest that you ve, embraced you pig identity
I'm not sure I mean I didn't even get up knowing about superstitions, even though my father's Chinese, I grew up in more filipino catholic household. So I only learned about these things much later on some time in mid nineties, I started reading articles about the upcoming dragon here, which could be two thousand and issues relating to baby booms in Taiwan. For this part of the story We need a demographer, I'm Daniel good kind. I'm an independent researcher from Arlington Virginia Good Kind, also works at the. U S: Census Bureau, with a focus on Asia, but he's not speaking today in his official capacity anyway Daniel good. I'm not interested in dragging children a while ago, one thousand nine hundred and eighty six and one thousand nine hundred and eighty seven. I was living in Taipei and I came across an article about, an impending dragon, your baby boom that was going to occur in nineteen, eighty, eight and others
cartoon in the middle of it, which showed a couple in bed looking rather exasperated as three he government figures were sort of standing alongside the bed, trying to lecture them that they should now let's try to time their birth entered the dragon here? They shouldn't try, because too many parents chased the good fortune of the dragon near the resulting baby boom could swamp public resources. There are a lot of use. Reports about hospitals been crowded their bodies. just with eight babies lying outside in the rack in the hall one thing there, concerned about was arising. Infant mortality because the boy shrilly really pile up at the end of the dragon here. But that's all the time of the lunar new year, and that's also the time that people are making vacations and people are met and towards as well and neonatal wards. So unfortunately, it appears that for complicated births, her premium
they didn't have enough facilities to take care of them, so have mortality actually ticked up in nineteen seventy six, the end of that dragon year. Nineteen, seventy six one thousand nine hundred and eighty eight two thousand and two thousand and twelve. These are the most recent dragon years. How big was again bloom. Typically, the rates of increase are about fifteen to twenty percent compared to the average of adjacent years since birth rates are plunging from the early sixties to the mid eighties in all these countries in EAST Asia, amid this plunging birthrate typical years, are going down mines to mine, Three percent the dragon year saw in Taiwan in seventy six, a fifteen point: five percent spike Singapore, chinese population son, eight percent spike Molly, The chinese population saw ten percent spike, but there is one significant place. The dragon boom wasn't happening. you saw a dragon, your birth effect in all east asian countries, or
chinese areas except China. It's only the check, Societies outside on the periphery. Now, why would that be? I was born and raised in mainland China under Communist rule June. We again one of the things they try to stay away from or try to eradicate is the old China, the old China, meaning Primo and Commons Revolution and Macedonia at the time and squares that now we have a new China. So that means saying goodbye to the old China, because that was understood or was perceived as owed backwards. Now able to survive in the twentyth century, her parents, she says, knew all about the Zodiac and the folk beliefs accompanying it, but no as a child.
I didn't know this and yeah you vaguely heard okay. If a girl was born that year of a gold she would have trouble. Marrying is what's wrong with gold and my parents, just like don't even ask because they're in Vienna, be identified as a counter revolutionary and believe in all system, and China was so poor. You know when you're very poor. You may not have a lot of time to worry about things like which year your child will be born in, but the dragon boom was happening among chinese populations outside of China. Now the special status of the dragon went back many centuries, so you might assume the dragon baby boom went back to, but Dana Good Kind, That was not the case based on the historical data that I've seen and talking to historical demographers. There really doesn't seem to be evidence until very recently. Its Leah, new tradition actually to try to time burrows in the dragon year. Why only recently? Well
one factor, obviously, is the decline and fertility rates over time when couples are having five six or seven children and they're, not using contraception. Then the import of timing, a birth in or out of vat Zodiac here might be less relevant or maybe not easy to do. But these is when people are having just one or two children and reproductive lifespan might be thirty five years, there's plenty of time there to play with people have greater control over their fertility through contraception. Good kind started looking around at the places where the dragon boom, with equally strong places like Taiwan, Singapore and hung on they'll. Let a couple things in common: a lot of Chinese who left China after the revolution and strong account. Incomes were growing up. I everywhere, and also employment was going up, including for women. Good kind suggests that this chinese diaspora didn't like how China itself was ditching, so many traditional practices and I think that
helped to increase the sense of chinese ness among those chinese people outside of China? The government and Taiwan presented itself as the legitimate inheritor of chinese culture and that could have been card parents to see themselves as the preservers of chinese culture broadly and so this was just one tiny little slice of chinese nest, but did it's possible that that could have increased the incentive to time birth? His way, it's also possible good kind, thought that being a minority immigrant creates an even stronger incentive to preserve your own cultural traditions. He was able to test this notion empirically in Malaysia. I looked at the proportion of Chinese in district- and I compare that to the size of the dragon- your spike in those districts, and indeed, if the Chinese in districts that had a small proportion of the total population actually
a larger spike. Eventually, however, as mean and China began to modernize the dragon and began showing up in their fertility data to John Nigh again, it's only in two thousand and two thousand twelve. Did you see it exploded, China, to something like the levels you we're seeing in Taiwan, in Hong Kong before its in cities which are growing rapidly and developing. Now that strikes me as a little bit surprising. I would but that I guess the more modern upwardly mobile parents would be a little bit less. Driven by that sort of belief here, the dragon belief did it surprise. You know, because the draft The fact is showing up strongly in countries their transitioning from being very poor to being very middle class. You could argue that these develop parts in I know I just now attaining the levels of economic develop that you saw say Malaysia or Hong Kong or Taiwan in the seventies. Second thing is, of course, we cannot rule out the fact
these areas also have greater access to media from Taiwan in Hong Kong and which may also be affecting them. I think it intersects with lot of issues in economics like preferences to people prefer carrots versus peas too, They prefer, if they have more income to go on occasions or by a motorcycle, so this saw part of that consumer choice. Framework to people prefer having dragon, Nora, her rabbit or which animal, and it may be be that as people grow, richer, you're, looking for identity, markers those identity markers, especially in a world- that's globalizing, may become far more important in the world today for good and for you back I would say a lot of this falls under a grand rubric of the whole debate about this colorization hypothesis, the idea that people become more secular, less religious, less spiritual
as they become more modern and richer and overtime. That belief has taken some hits. Ok, so you ve written a couple of papers about dragon babies. So let me ask you a kind of churlish question why It is your research matter will clearly, there are a number of issues here to the very important whether the effects in terms of education, the labour market, the marriage market. All these kinds of things of rain, the questions professor nigh, and we will, into them right after this,
starting in the nineteen seventeen certain populations in Asia began to experience a sizeable baby boom every twelve years during the astrological propitious year of the dragon, all else equal. What parent want Turkey to be born under a good sign? So, as usual with economist, we sat around discussing disincentives. They always happen. That, again, is the economist John. I wish we bad for them right because ITALY, too crowded, but maybe not, maybe people will think these people are important to be treated differently Indeed, you could imagine the dragon boom, producing all sorts of outcomes for the dragon kids themselves, but also for other kids. In fact, one study found worse health, outcomes for newborns in Malaysia during Dragon years, presumably due to hospital crowding. Another study found the chinese dragon kids
in Singapore, went on to earn less than non dragons, perhaps due to a more crowded labour market. So your child may suffer a deficit because you have more competition at one possibility, at least on the other hand, have to ask yourself what, if the kind of parent whose methodical enough to time a kids birth to a dragon year, is so the kind of parent who pushed their kids to be successful. So when you argue about these things, you start thinking. Well, how am I going to test this? That's how the impetus came up. Is this being a study that John I undertook with his colleague nor Johnson, and here at the idea of, instead of looking at say Taiwanese or people in Hong Kong to look at asian american immigrants using American D had a couple advantage. If that is the dragon boom is even a thing
among Asian Americans. If so, the researchers could minimize potential crowding effects that may occur in smaller countries like Taiwan were the dragon boom. Might stream classroom resources. There were any number of ways they could slice and days this robust american birth data, and then we can look at the: U S, two thousand census, so citizen nineteen, seventy six burst, so people are gonna, be twenty three four years old, rang correct, correct at the time the census. Now I would think, as a total lay person now wait a minute. The kind of people who are most like to emigrate to the: U S might have a different set of beliefs about the power, let's say of the year. The dragon absolutely so one of the things we wanted to do was compared to group you're talking about to various reference groups, in particular. The reference groups who are interested in is we look in our data asian Americans compared to other Americans born in dread
here's, what Ny Giants and found a five percent spake in asian american births during the dragon year of nineteen, seventy six, not as dramatic as this makes an Asia was still significant, so they set about to investigate the outcomes of this cohort Sobieski domain com. is to look at asian american immigrants minus the nun dragon. Believing groups who were born in the dragon year version those who were also immigrants but not born into dragon year. In addition, we want to make corrections for the fact that it compare asian american immigrants. They tend to have them iced educational attainment relative to other groups and gentle relative to Americans on average and relative to other image, since the dragons, they were looking at, where only in their early twenties, nigh Johnson focused primarily on educational outcomes, rather later in life, markers like income or marriage, so when they find we,
see that asian american dragons have roughly a third more Europe education, we're talking three to four months: more of education. If you only look at immigrants now so you're only comparing asian american Dragon immigrants. Asian American Non Dragon immigrants, the difference in This is to nearly half a year. That is a huge effect. Secondly,. since in general asian american immigrants are roughly getting say, colic fourteen years of education on average, that means Highschool plus two years of college, I have your average when people are averaging. Fourteen years of education is basically saying five percent or ten percent are finishing college who would never finish college report, so presumably that translates to a better income outcome, but you can't She tell back from your data, kangaroos you're, looking at people just when their twenty to twenty three years old we know from.
lot of other research has to be well established, those it more educational attainment tend to do better, so at least in the occasion department the dire warnings about overcrowding in competition didn't seem to have heard the. U S born dragon babies either that or these in babies were so amazing that they overcame those obstacles and still perform better. In any case, they somehow seemed to have fulfilled the dragon destinies. How figured out nigh and Johnson focused on a sub group in their data who they suspected had the strongest belief in the dragon. So basically we're looking at on Taiwanese Asians and taiwanese agents in California. In terms of income, gender distribution, age distribution, they have roughly the same character. six, the biggest differences. The taiwanese groups tended to have a larger proportion of people went back.
Those degrees and a larger number of people who were dragons, tell me about the characteristics of the parents by want to know everything that you know about the mothers or fathers of the dragon babies born in California in eighteen. Seventy six! So that's where we found most interesting results for this special sub group. We drill down, on the time these moms in California, who had had dragged babies tended to be now rich a little bit older, more educated and higher income, the income is not so strong. The bigger effect is that there were more likely to have only children which suggests very strong selection by us now. Here's where we'll just sort of bull parking right we just guessing, but one way to think about this- is that well educated income, older moms, we're gonna only have one child not only want to drag and bid.
But maybe have the freedom and the wherewithal and the lower opportunity cost of obtaining a dragon baby. Is this a case of that kind of parent being more likely to wait? Two, of a baby in the year, the dragon or is it that that kind of parent will have and will put more resources into the baby. who happens to be born in the dragon here? Both of those are possible that their willing to wait and see the plan in a way that appropriate yeah. I guess if the set One is that we somewhat true. Then it sounds like what I would call a self fulfilling prophecy yeah. Absolutely, I think that, given the These are happening in countries that are becoming bourgeois so to speak, middle middle income countries, there is the sense in which part of what being modern and economic growth does is allows you to indulge your beliefs. The second thing is that it may well be that whenever there
This is wanted. Babies are more fortunate. Well, wantonness is really a key workers. There's a lot of literature that shows that unwanted nisus jested a rotten start for any kid. Yes, correct what about. If I have a kid and I'm not really paying attention to the year, and I happen to have a kid born in the year, the dragon and that kid might have been Let's see the ninety five percent, while in the school system, but now he or she is getting crowded out by all these rag and babies and gets knocked down to the eighty five percent tiled. I would think that's a bigger problem, relatively small societies like Singapore or Hong Kong and its less were problem. United States, where they are already minority, so they'll be mixing with bigger groups. It does suggest, however, in some places at least game theory, solution, right, which is it well. If I know that all these other parents are gonna be pumping out the babies during the year, the dragon than I can optimize.
by having my smart kid. You know six months before after yes, correct a shoe that's all. You want, The census data that nine Johnson use couldn't tell them anything about how these dragon kids were being raised. Whether perhaps there was some self fulfilling prophecy going on, but other scholars have looked into whether higher expectations lead to better outcomes. In a famous study by the psychologist robber, Roosevelt schoolteachers were told that their students were gifted, even though they weren't yet somehow, by the end of the term, those students did outperform their peers. There's been some push back as to whether teacher expectations really have such a large effect in any case is also the idea of parental expectations. A recent study by a pair of economists at Louisiana State University look at.
again, kids born in China. These kids did have better educational outcomes and their non dragon peers, but the researchers found no difference in the kids, cognitive abilities, self esteem or their expectations, but they did find was at their parents, had higher expectations and those parents invested more time and money in their kid success. Talking to the kids teachers for Paul or letting the kids do fewer chores research. Yoko Yamamoto and Susan Holloway has found multiple links between appearance expectations and a child's academic achievement. It was, of course, self fulfilling prophecy.
of the parents in that is Yoko Yamamoto, because they believed tat children point that year would be intelligent or would be excellent if they make a plan and they organise the children's lives, and they also have skills knowledge and time to do We think we're not saying that people believe the superstition. That's John, I again on the notion of how a child is affected by a dragon. Your birth, we just sort of, say, there's this birth. Your effect, in fact, one of the things that the self fulfilling prophecy will tell you is that if other people cheat your child, this way it may pay to have a birth year dragon baby, even if you don't believe it you're. So What would have firm? Ok? This is obviously wildly unrealistic, but what, if you could, let's say, designate the twelve years for different symbols, all of which are awesome rivers, a unicorn nurses, Son Burst, is whatever aid.
none of them are negative, they're all awesome and then just persuade you know psychically, every parent, that every child, born under whatever sign, is somehow destined for awesomeness. As long as the parents properly invest that child with education, and funding and love and so on. I mean obviously it's a mind game, but isn't that kind of the idea here Yes, I don't think we have had a lot of success at certain artificially creating awesomeness. I guess that's all I'm saying ok, so fifthly, creating awesomeness may be hard, Also hard to know exactly, what's going on in the minds of all those dragon parents and dragon kids, even the very best cross. Sectional data won't tell you that so find out. We asked for economics, radio producer, Stephanie Tam
to speak with Sub dragon, kids and parents. So I was curious to find out how Dragon year, beliefs were actually playing out in the lives and minds of Asian Americans in part, because my own parent, from Hong Kong and I'd never heard about this Zodiac practice before so. HU? I tracked down some dragon children and parents, starting with two five year olds, who were playmates. I interviewed them with parents in New York, my name is Sir Leon. Five, those born as a year with dragon but are dragons what are they like? I've never met before is made out of a horse s head, and then it's like the snakes body in the Balkans or cast points. Drug debts and they're good
yeah one day he came home, he says I'm a dragon and I'm very smart. That's Victoria James is mom. I don't know where he get that from maybe a relative or or other parents exposed that to him. If my son thinks TAT, you know, this is a good thing, then good for him. If he thinks it's a bad thing, then obviously I would discourage him to think that way and that's Jimmy James is dad. For me it is a zodiac just slightly western Jody you know are you an area is a query is for me, that's entertainment value. When I first found now, I was kind of excited because chinese they, like especially the sun, to be mine, the dragon like hitting the jackpot Amandas parents, Nelson and grace, also hadn't timed her birth and they didn't think they gave her special treatment because she's a drag
but they did find creative ways to remind her of her dragon identity. I Amanda Motto, chinese nickname, so one of them is called shalom, new in a little dragon girl, and there is a famous character, Michel, Romney, anxiously beautiful, inspired and then Sacha to try to make jokes Chinese like based on your because, sounds or similar. You know it's a tunnel language. You can say alone bow, so it's a suit dumplings. Course that everyone loves in them and, interestingly, Amanda loves them somehow just referred to add our chairman MAO she loves all about like alternately, this great mythical, beast and soup dumpling. That's right is a fine thing and is a good way to go deeper and further to China
is culture I also spoke with when zau and her seventeen year old Dragon daughter DORA when had moved from China Who America after college and she, is DORA in Illinois. It's very clear to me that I want to. I'm a dragon child. Why have a choice it? Just because everything that I read you know in books in literature and everything you watch the movie is the image of a dragging. Is it's all glade Her doktor had told her to expect a c section, so she decided to how a dragon. So I knew I could shoes whether I have forborne and the end of the dragon year or the beginning of the snake year by the date I select a door would be for Tom already, so sport and the tail of the dragon year. strongly that freedom to choose her Zodiac has also shaped her daughters relationship to a dragon identity, because I was born in two thousand and one
indeed, at the american counter the western counter, unconsidered snake, but an lunar counter, unconsidered dragoon? I would always have to look at both of them to see like if the which prediction was more like accurate. So what I thought about myself door, now a high school junior. I do remember they say joggins, I like very authoritative, which fur special The little girl when you're always hold the late you're very cute, was like pretty like nice to hear you know, I too can be pretty vat, as It was looking a lot like asian Americans were picking and choosing the parts of the chinese Zodiac and culture that they liked. It felt like a kind of cultural consumerism. You could focus on positive traits that fit and aspire to ones that didn't that idea aspirations. Identity came up again with oldest dragon. I spoke with Margaret Tongue she's, twenty nine group in California.
and is now the senior marketing manager at a sustainable cleaning products company in New York. She It was the most intentional and fully fledged dragon. I spoke with and by all accounts seem to be a breathing embodiment of dragging ease, success as a yell graduate and chew time, seat, YO, I remember growing up, like my parents, who told me that so many people and their friends or collar and their immigrant answer call we're trying to have kids in nineteen. Eighty eight because, like now was it a dragon year. It was also like the Golden Dragon Year, which is the most auspicious. Ok. When did you first discover Europe again and what was your reaction is high, when I was three like the earliest memory I have of anyone. My friend They calling me long long, which is like little dry again, ultimately its. Minder, of fury, ancestry and of your culture Ok, so you said that you identified with the dragon characteristics and I'm sure
is what are those characteristics, and how would you describe your personality in the parts that you felt matched up? I think the ones stand out are the very end. just in there also very well for our group and household, where my parents really encourage me to be the best version of myself. I think my mom, she really felt it was her job optimum courage that and in moments that we're really challenging and difficult because, like oh, but actually like that's the way, people see me is ambitious and smart and wilful also like those are things that are so within me, even though it I feel them at the moment and as the younger kids, couldn't fully fit in because edges obviously didn't look like this. Why call that was all around me a minute her word and so internally is one thing that I held onto our like really reminded myself of, but I had my own identity crisis in your mom's eyes. What was kind of the best you could be, I think, the most thing for her was that you know her kids get the best education they could be.
She also wanted us to discover our own passions and talents. Do you feel like you ve, achieved more success? Then your fellow non Dragon, barnyard animal civil man- I don't know, I think, barnyard animals are highly giving the around for my money, but yeah I mean knowing and understanding the characteristics of like what being dragon means, affect me anyway. Growing up it certainly did it gave me the right to be a more wealth human being, despite the fact that I am also an asian female who is expected to be very, like obedient, excited to take direction. Well, And instead I'm the kind of person who is much hunger and what I believe has no hesitation in saying what I think but also have developed into a much more open person, then it otherwise would be.
that was Stephanie Tam talking to asian american Dragon, kids in their parents and before we go is a bit more on the most famous dragon kid and parents at the moment, olympic Gold, medalist, Chloe Kim and her dad junk income, became family is korean, not chinese, but they to believe in dragon power. I touched her this morning is the time to be driver to make my dream can ensure it took a lot of hard work and sacrifice like how much my dad has given up for me- and I know I wouldn't be here without him- this deep views from a visit. California promote no video, why she was about eight or nine. I found it. Potential to make olympie everything. Oh crazy. Like learning experience, I remember one trip when he finally learn While wax with you, you ve got candles, You cannot. He melted candles onto my board thinking and be the same vein,
If I get a message to get my dad I'll probably be. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. me so much on this crazy journey and giving up. His job then like being away from my mom and being away from home for that much just because of me alive and Vienna I thank him for it. especially dragon. That's that's it, for today's shall come up next time on economics, radio, the stupidest thing you can do with your money, its attacks on smart people, who don't realize their propensity for doing stupid things. What's attacks on smart people was it's easy to. Laying the simple proposition: what's a simple proposition: its Wall Street nightmare. What's, while streets nightmare we are now in the middle of the Copernican Revolution, bout, the proper,
one vast, or at least the rational way to invest the passive investing revolution will hear from Jack Bobo, farmer bury written holds and more than next time and for economics, radio for economics, radio is produced by W and my c studios end up near productions. This episode was produced by Stephanie Time, with backtracking help from Brien Gutierrez Especial thanks to visit California and next Picardy from NBC Olympics Our staff also includes Alison Hockenberry Merit Jacob Gregg results, Key MAX Miller and Harry Huggins, the music you here throughout the episode was composed by Luis Gara. You can subscribe to four connivance radio and apple POD Castro sticker or every get your biogas. You should also check out our archive for economics, dot com we can stream or download every episode we have ever made can also the transcripts find links to the underlying research. We can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin or email at radio at for economics,
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Transcript generated on 2021-01-21.