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How Hungry is the Selfish Gene?

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  • Anne Case
  • I-Fen Lin
  • Sara McLanahan

Abstract

We examine resource allocation in step-households, in the United States and South Africa, to test whether child investments vary according to economic and genetic bonds between parent and child. We used 18 years of data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, and compare food expenditure by family type, holding constant household size, age composition and income. We find that in those households in which a child is raised by an adoptive, step or foster mother, less is spent on food. We cannot reject the hypothesis that the effect of replacing a biological child with a non- biological child is the same, whether the non-biological child is an adoptive, step or foster child of the mother. In South Africa, where we can disaggregate food consumption more finely, we find that when a child's biological mother is the head or spouse of the head of household, the household spends significantly more on food, in particular on milk and fruit and vegetables, and significantly less on tobacco and alcohol. The genetic tie to the child, and not any anticipated future economic tie, appears to be the tie that binds.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7401.

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Date of creation: Oct 1999
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7401

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  1. Behrman, Jere R & Pollak, Robert A & Taubman, Paul, 1982. "Parental Preferences and Provision for Progeny," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(1), pages 52-73, February.
  2. Sheila Krein & Andrea Beller, 1988. "Educational attainment of children from single-parent families: Differences by exposure, gender, and race," Demography, Springer, vol. 25(2), pages 221-234, May.
  3. Ted Bergstrom, 1995. "A Survey of Theories of the Family," Papers _027, University of Michigan, Department of Economics.
  4. Becker, Gary S & Tomes, Nigel, 1976. "Child Endowments and the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(4), pages S143-62, August.
  5. Case, A. & Deaton, A., 1996. "Large Cash Transfers to the Elderly in South Africa," Papers 176, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Development Studies.
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