Frontiers of Family Economics: Volume 1

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Table of contents

(12 chapters)

Over the past several decades there have been substantial changes in the size, composition, educational level, work activity, and locational choice of families. The aim of this book series is to provide a better understanding of the forces that have led to the choices and consequent observed changes resulting from a wide variety of sources. This volume provides a collection of articles at the frontier of research on issues relevant to family decision making and the outcomes of such decisions. This volume contains theoretical as well as empirical insights.

We investigate the positive and normative consequences of child-labor restrictions for economic aggregates and welfare. We argue that even though the laissez-faire outcome may be inefficient, there are usually better policies to cure these inefficiencies than the imposition of a child-labor ban. Given this finding, we investigate the potential political-economic reasons behind the emergence and persistence of child-labor legislation. Our investigation is based on a structural dynamic general equilibrium model that provides a coherent and uniform framework for our analysis.

The extent to which means-tested transfers, social insurance, and tax credits fill the gap between a family's private resources and the poverty threshold is a periodic barometer of the social safety net. Using data on families from the Current Population Survey I examine how the level and composition of before- and after-tax and after-transfer poverty gaps changed in response to changes in the policy and economic landscapes over the past two decades. The estimates presented here indicate not only dramatic changes in the level and sources of income maintenance programs filling the poverty gap, but also dramatic changes in which demographic groups successfully fill the gap. From the peak-to-peak business-cycle years of 1979 to 1999, the fraction of the gap left unfilled among non-elderly families in poverty has expanded by 25 percent, while the unfilled gap has increased by 50 percent among single female-headed families, families headed by non-whites, and families residing in the Northeast. In a given year the poor in the South fill considerably less of the poverty gap with cash welfare, but make up for much of the shortfall with higher payments of food stamps, SSI, and SSDI. Over time the poor in all regions of the country have substituted SSI, SSDI, and the EITC for cash welfare. Indeed, by 1999 the unfilled gap for families with related children present would be one-fifth larger without the EITC. With the exception of married-couple families, this apparent rate of replacement of disability payments and tax credits for cash welfare is less than one for one, leaving most poor families, especially non-white families and single female-headed families, financially more vulnerable today than in previous decades.

This paper describes trends in average weekly hours of market work per person and per family in the United States between 1950 and 2005. We disaggregate married couple households by skill level to determine if there is a pattern in the hours of work by wives and husbands conditional on either husband's wages or husband's educational attainment. The wage measure of skill allows us to compare our findings to those of Juhn and Murphy (1997), who report on trends in family labor using a different data set. The educational measure of skill allows us to construct a longer time series. We find several interesting patterns. The married women with the largest increase in market hours are those with high-skilled husbands. When we compare households with different skill mixes, we also find dramatic differences in the time paths, with higher skill households having the largest increase in average hours over time.

The same forces that lead to changes in participation in the labor market can also affect the extent of criminal activity. To analyze such interaction we construct a search-theoretic model where labor market participation, labor market outcomes and crime are determined jointly. The model is calibrated to US data focusing on females. The main finding is that changes affecting the labor market, such as changes in productivity or in preferences toward market activities, can have significant effects on criminal behavior.

In this paper, we use data from the US census to document the history of the relationship between fertility choice and key economic indicators at the individual level for women born between 1826 and 1960. We find that this data suggests several new facts that should be useful for researchers trying to model fertility. (1) The reduction in fertility known as the Demographic Transition (or the Fertility Transition) seems to be much sharper based on cohort fertility measures compared to usual measures like Total Fertility Rate; (2) The baby boom was not quite as large as is suggested by some previous work; (3) We find a strong negative relationship between income and fertility for all cohorts and estimate an overall income elasticity of about −0.38 for the period; (4) We also find systematic deviations from a time invariant, iso-elastic, relationship between income and fertility. The most interesting of these is an increase in the income elasticity of demand for children for the 1876–1880 to 1906–1910 birth cohorts. This implies an increased spread in fertility by income which was followed by a dramatic compression.

We study trends in occupational and geographic mobility of single and married men and women in the United States over the last 40 years. We find that while occupational mobility has increased for almost all subgroups of males, most of the increase was accounted for by a sharp increase in the mobility of singles. Similarly, the rates of geographic mobility were virtually identical for single and married workers in the early 1970s, but diverged since then – the increase in the geographic mobility of single men was more pronounced than the increase for married men. We discuss several theories of worker mobility in light of these trends and suggest that the increased labor force attachment of women might have played a prominent role in driving these changes.

Cover of Frontiers of Family Economics
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Frontiers of Family Economics
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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