The Atlantic

Parenting Like an Economist Is a Lot Less Stressful

Emily Oster outlines a data-centric child-rearing approach in her new book, Cribsheet.
Source: Mike Blake / Reuters

As a genre, parenting books generally don’t give their readers much room to think through what’s best for them and their children—they offer plenty in the way of “how to,” but little in the way of “whether to” or “why to.”

“By not explaining why,” writes Emily Oster in her new book, Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to, “we remove people’s ability to think about these choices for themselves, with their own preferences playing a role.” Oster is an economist at Brown University, and is her extensive analysis of what research has to say—and perhaps more importantly, what it doesn’t have to say—about the upsides and downsides of breastfeeding, potty training, and circumcision, among many other issues that come up in the first few years of a child’s life.

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