The New York Observer’s Simon Doonan spots a new trend among the chic and super-rich ladies of Manhattan: having three children instead of the two children who were so long the family norm among the population explosion-conscious elite. “[T]hree is the new two!” says Doon.

This surprises me, for only a few months ago Vanessa Grigoriadis of New York magazine was announcing that one is the new two. In a November 2004 article Grigoriadis wrote about the increasing number of upscale Manhattan couple who were electing to have only one child. Their justifications ranged from the prohibitive expense of raising and educating a kid in New York City to what Grigoriadis characterized as “a general desire to be more cosmopolitan and European (where the average family size is estimated at 1.4 children).” Grigoriadis declared that New York was “the national capital of only children.”

Doonan begs to differ. 

“Onto the landscape of Manhattan, a new and lethal status symbol has alighted — and it’s causing the J.A.P.’s and WASP’s of the Upper East Side to quiver with envy. No, I’m not talking about those impossible-to-find strings of oversized Lanvin pearls wrapped in black mousseline. Or, for that matter, those $20,000 Rochas dresses that are selling before they hit the racks.

“The lethal wealth indicator to which I refer is much more squishy and biological and — dare I say it? — uterine. All you need to possess it is a Matterhorn of cash and a high tolerance for pain.

“Yes, I’m talking about THE THIRD CHILD. Call it the Grace Kelly Syndrome. You can even call it the Demi Moore Syndrome. Either way, three is the new two! That critical third child — quite possibly the status symbol of this decade — will get you more Park Avenue cred than a fleet of Bentleys.”

Doonan quotes Amy Astley, editor of Teen Vogue:

“‘The third child screams, “My apartment is massive, my S.U.V. is spacious, my cash unlimited!”‘ observed an amused Ms. Astley, who believes the third-child trend is not only driven by a desire to demonstrate richesse, but also by a deranged, Kennedyesque desire to give birth to a clan.”

Indeed, Doonan reports that some status-crazed families are going so far as to have not only a third but a fourth child! That really screams Kennedy clan, doesn’t it?

So which is the new two? One, as Grigoriadis insists, or three, as Doonan asserts? For my part, if Doonan is right, I’m glad to see that the blue-state elite, with its notorious ultra-low fertility rate, might be waking up to the fact that it’s gradually losing the demographic war to red-staters and their tendencies to have large families. Instead of wondering “what’s the matter” with the red-staters, the blue-staters are getting off their duffs and fighting back. That’s healthy.