Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Were there more babies in 2012 because of the dragon year?

As mentioned in an earlier post, I used simple but fairly robust methods to estimate the dragon baby effect in 2000. Although Chinese births shot up 10% over the previous year, Malay and Indian births also increased. This might have occurred because people were becoming more confident about the future, having just come out of a financial crisis. Making the necessary adjustments, I found that the dragon year boosted births by 5.7%, rather than the 10% you'd get from a cursory look.

The 2012 dragon year is almost over, but we already have almost all the data from 2012 to work with, so  let's find out if the dragon year effect is stronger or weaker this year. While the press does note the rise in births in 2012, we do have some skeptics who called the dragon baby effect a "myth". Who is right?

First, look at the chart below, which shows the number of live births by ethnicity from 2010 to 2012. You can see that during the dragon period, shaded in grey, the number of Chinese births showed a spike. On the other hand, the number of Malay and Indian births remained quite flat.



For Chinese, the number of births rose by 7.6% as compared to the same period in the previous year. Can we attribute these births to the dragon year?

The birth rate for non-Chinese also increased, for one reason or another (I can't think of any though). The magnitude of this increase was smaller though, at 3.5%. Since whatever was causing the other races to have more babies was probably also  influencing Chinese births, the 7.6% figure is probably an overestimate. Given this, I found the dragon year effect to be a rather modest amount, at 3.9%.

While this is smaller than the 5.7% effect in 2000, we still have 3 more months of data to go. Births only increased from Sep, rather than the start of the dragon year, and if this continues the dragon year effect is probably going to be higher.

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