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The Economic Motives for Child Allowances: Altruism, Exchange or Value of Independence?

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This paper looks inside the “black box†of the family and examines the determinants of inter vivos transfers in the form of allowances given to children. We consider in a simple model two main competing explanations for the transfer of money from parents to children in the form of regular allowances, namely altruism and exchange. We also extend the altruism framework to include unobserved child heterogeneity in monetary autonomy or the 'value of independence'. We use a unique dataset drawn from the British Family Expenditure Survey, which enables us to explicitly test both the inter-generational predictions of the various models, and through a study of siblings, we are also able to consider the intra-household aspects of such payments. Using both random (inter-household) and fixed-effect (intra-household) estimators, we find robust evidence of an n- shape relationship between a child's external income and the receipt of allowances from parents. Importantly, this estimated profile does not fit the predications of simple models of altruism or exchange, but does fit an altruism model with unobserved heterogeneity. Further support for the importance of the value of independence is that girls and those with higher birth orders obtain much higher allowances, whereby we argue both girls and those born later mature earlier and are therefore likely to be causally related to a high value of independence. We believe that further investigation of the motives underlying intra-household transfers is important for the design of policies aimed at redistributing income, such as child welfare payments.

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Paper provided by School of Economics, University of Queensland, Australia in its series Discussion Papers Series with number 446.

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Date of creation: 2002
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Handle: RePEc:qld:uq2004:446

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  1. Riber, D.C. & Wilhelm, M.O., 1996. "Altruistic and Joy-of-Giving Motivations in Charitable Behavior," Papers 1-96-4, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
  2. Bernheim, B Douglas & Shleifer, Andrei & Summers, Lawrence H, 1986. "The Strategic Bequest Motive," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(3), pages S151-82, July.
  3. Joseph G. Altonji & Fumio Hayashi & Laurence Kotlikoff, 1995. "Parental Altruism and Inter Vivos Transfers: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 5378, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Becker, Gary S, 1981. "Altruism in the Family and Selfishness in the Market Place," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 48(189), pages 1-15, February.
  5. Barnet-Verzat, Christine & Wolff, Francois-Charles, 2002. "Motives for pocket money allowance and family incentives," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 339-366, June.
  6. Becker, Gary S, 1974. "A Theory of Social Interactions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1063-93, Nov.-Dec..
  7. Bo Honore & Ekaterini Kyriazidou & J. L. Powell, 2000. "Estimation of tobit-type models with individual specific effects," Econometric Reviews, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(3), pages 341-366.
  8. Honore, Bo E., 1993. "Orthogonality conditions for Tobit models with fixed effects and lagged dependent variables," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1-2), pages 35-61, September.
  9. Cox, Donald, 1987. "Motives for Private Income Transfers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(3), pages 508-46, June.
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