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The patriarch who started a baby boom

At the Institute for Family Studies website, the economist Lyman Stone explained how Patriarch Ilia II single-handedly started a baby boom in Georgia.

The Orthodox leader promised to personally baptise and become a godfather to any third child (or higher) born to a married couple in the country. Since he made this promise a decade ago he has baptised 30,000 babies – 35 per cent of the third-or-higher births.

Before the policy, Georgians “weren’t having enough kids to keep the population stable”. After the patriarch’s promise, “the fertility rate rocketed to above-replacement levels and has stayed there for nearly a decade”, Stone said.

What’s more, financial incentives for childbearing were introduced in 2013 and their effect was on the birth rate was “substantially smaller”, said Stone.

Fertility changes of this kind are extremely uncommon, he said. But Georgia, he noted, is unique: 90 per cent of its 3.4 million citizens are Orthodox and Patriarch Ilia is “widely trusted and respected”.

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