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Private Transfers within the Family: Mothers, Fathers, Sons and Daughters

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  • Donald Cox

    ()
    (Boston College)

Abstract

Despite recent advances in data collection and the growing number of empirical studies that examine private intergenerational transfers, there still exist significant gaps in our knowledge. Who transfers what to whom, and why do they it? I argue that some of these gaps could be filled by departing from the standard parent-child framework and concentrating instead on fathers, mothers, sons and daughters in a way that accounts for fundamental--and sometimes obvious--male-female differences in concerns and objectives in family life. Elementary sex differences in reproductive biology constitute the basic building blocks of studies of family behavior in many disciplines, but despite recent progress they get far less attention than they deserve in economic studies of the family. I explore, separately, the implications of three basic biological facts for intergenerational transfer behavior. The first is paternity uncertainty: how does it affect the incentives of fathers, mothers and of various grandparents to invest in children? The second is differing reproductive prospects of sons versus daughters: when are sons a better investment than daughters and vice versa? The third is conflict: How much acrimony might we expect to occur in families, and why? In examining these issues I also explore household survey data from the United States. This preliminary evidence is consistent with non-biological as well as biological explanations of behavior. Nonetheless, the biological focus confers two advantages, by generating falsifiable predictions and by illuminating new avenues for empirical work. There is enormous potential for further micro-data-based empirical work in this area.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Boston College Department of Economics in its series Boston College Working Papers in Economics with number 605.

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Date of creation: 31 Dec 2003
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Publication status: published in Alicia H. Munnell and Annika Sunden, eds., Death and Dollars: The Role of Gifts and Bequests in America, (c) 2003 by The Brookings Institution.
Handle: RePEc:boc:bocoec:605

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Related research

Keywords: Private transfers; gender; biology; evolution; conflict; public transfers; social security; marriage; children; family.;

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References

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Cited by:
  1. Dirk Bethmann & Michael Kvasnicka, 2011. "The institution of marriage," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 24(3), pages 1005-1032, July.
  2. Luke, Nancy & Munshi, Kaivan, 2011. "Women as agents of change: Female income and mobility in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 1-17, January.
  3. Carmen Diana Deere & Cheryl Doss, 2006. "The Gender Asset Gap: What Do We Know And Why Does It Matter?," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(1-2), pages 1-50.
  4. Donald Cox, 2007. "Biological Basics and the Economics of the Family," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 91-108, Spring.

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