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Intergenerational Externalities


  • Edward Lazear


A common theme which runs through much of the investment literature is that private incentives may lead to sub-optimal levels of investment activity. The idea has been extended casually to consideration of human capital investment as well. It is sometimes contended that decisions, made by parents, have adverse effects on their offspring, which could be prevented if inter-generational contracts could be struck. If so, a case can be made for government intervention or subsidization programs to alleviate these intergenerational externalities. Specifically, the sub-optimal investment in offspring human capital may take such obvious forms as poor clothing, too little health care, or too few resources devoted to the child's education. Less obvious externalities may result when parents underinvest in themselves because they fail to consider spillover benefits to their children. Parental schooling, for example, may affect the child's ability (or desire) to learn. Dietary patterns established by parents for themselves may influence the child's eating habits and affect his health. More directly, healthy parents are less likely to transmit diseases to their offspring. This paper will examine the effects of these intergenerational externalities in greater detail.
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Suggested Citation

  • Edward Lazear, 1983. "Intergenerational Externalities," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 16(2), pages 212-228, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:cje:issued:v:16:y:1983:i:2:p:212-28

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Becker, Gary S, 1974. "A Theory of Social Interactions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1063-1093, Nov.-Dec..
    2. Barro, Robert J, 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1095-1117, Nov.-Dec..
    3. Ishikawa, Tsuneo, 1975. "Family Structures and Family Values in the Theory of Income Distribution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(5), pages 987-1008, October.
    4. Lazear, Edward P, 1977. "Education: Consumption or Production?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(3), pages 569-597, June.
    5. Bowles, Samuel, 1972. "Schooling and Inequality from Generation to Generation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(3), pages 219-251, Part II, .
    6. Yoram Ben-Porath, 1967. "The Production of Human Capital and the Life Cycle of Earnings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 352-352.
    7. Brown, Charles, 1976. "A Model of Optimal Human-Capital Accumulation and the Wages of Young High School Graduates," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(2), pages 299-316, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. James M. Poterba, 1996. "Government Intervention in the Markets for Education and Health Care: How and Why?," NBER Chapters,in: Individual and Social Responsibility: Child Care, Education, Medical Care, and Long-Term Care in America, pages 277-308 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Alice Schoonbroodt & Michele Tertilt, 2010. "Who Owns Children and Does It Matter?," Working Papers id:2360, eSocialSciences.
    3. Gilbert R. Ghez & Michael Grossman, 1979. "Preventive Care, Care for Children and National Health Insurance," NBER Working Papers 0417, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Raj Chetty, 2015. "Behavioral Economics and Public Policy: A Pragmatic Perspective," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(5), pages 1-33, May.
    5. Edward P. Lazear, 1999. "Culture and Language," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages 95-126, December.
    6. Agénor, Pierre-Richard & Canuto, Otaviano & da Silva, Luiz Pereira, 2014. "On gender and growth: The role of intergenerational health externalities and women's occupational constraints," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 132-147.
    7. Schoonbroodt, Alice & Tertilt, Michèle, 2014. "Property rights and efficiency in OLG models with endogenous fertility," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 150(C), pages 551-582.
    8. Janet Currie & Enrico Moretti, 2002. "Mother's Education and the Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital: Evidence from College Openings and Longitudinal Data," NBER Working Papers 9360, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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