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Families as roommates: Changes in U.S. household size from 1850 to 2000

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  • Alejandrina Salcedo
  • Todd Schoellman
  • Michèle Tertilt

Abstract

The size of the average American household has fallen dramatically -from six in 1850 to three in 2000. To explain this decline we model households as collections of roommates who share the costs of household public goods. If private goods are more income elastic than public goods, as we document in the paper, an increase in income endogenously leads to smaller households. We calibrate the model to match data from 2000. Changing incomes to their 1850 levels, we find that our mechanism can explain 37 percent of the observed reduction in the number of adults per household and 16 percent of the reduction in the number of children.
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Suggested Citation

  • Alejandrina Salcedo & Todd Schoellman & Michèle Tertilt, 2012. "Families as roommates: Changes in U.S. household size from 1850 to 2000," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 3(1), pages 133-175, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecm:quante:v:3:y:2012:i:1:p:133-175
    DOI: QE76
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    Cited by:

    1. Doepke, M. & Tertilt, M., 2016. "Families in Macroeconomics," Handbook of Macroeconomics, Elsevier.
    2. Jeremy Greenwood & Nezih Guner & Georgi Kocharkov & Cezar Santos, 2016. "Technology and the Changing Family: A Unified Model of Marriage, Divorce, Educational Attainment, and Married Female Labor-Force Participation," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 8(1), pages 1-41, January.
    3. Raül Santaeulàlia-Llopis & Yu Zheng, 2017. "Why Is Food Consumption Inequality Underestimated? A Story of Vices and Children," Working Papers 969, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
    4. Rosa Aisa & Joaquín Andaluz & Gemma Larramona, 2017. "Fertility patterns in the Roma population of Spain," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 115-133, March.
    5. David de la Croix & Faustine Perrin, 2016. "French Fertility and Education Transition: Rational Choice vs. Cultural Diffusion," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2016007, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    6. Underwood, Anthony & Zahran, Sammy, 2015. "The carbon implications of declining household scale economies," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 182-190.
    7. Gatskova, Kseniia & Kozlov, Vladimir, 2018. "Doubling Up or Moving Out? The Effect of International Labor Migration on Household Size," CEI Working Paper Series 2017-6, Center for Economic Institutions, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
    8. Xi Chen, 2017. "Old age pension and intergenerational living arrangements: a regression discontinuity design," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 15(2), pages 455-476, June.
    9. Bick, Alexander & Choi, Sekyu, 2013. "Revisiting the effect of household size on consumption over the life-cycle," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 37(12), pages 2998-3011.
    10. Michelle Rendall & Fatih Guvenen, 2009. "Emancipation through Education," 2009 Meeting Papers 70, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    11. Schünemann, Johannes & Strulik, Holger & Trimborn, Timo, 2017. "The marriage gap: Optimal aging and death in partnerships," ECON WPS - Vienna University of Technology Working Papers in Economic Theory and Policy 04/2017, Vienna University of Technology, Institute for Mathematical Methods in Economics, Research Group Economics (ECON).
    12. Santaeulàlia-Llopis, Raül ; Zheng, Yu, 2016. "Missing Consumption Inequality: Direct Evidence from Individual Food Data," Economics Working Papers ECO2016/12, European University Institute.
    13. Fremstad, Anders & Underwood, Anthony & Zahran, Sammy, 2018. "The Environmental Impact of Sharing: Household and Urban Economies in CO2 Emissions," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 137-147.
    14. Luca Pensieroso & Alessandro Sommacal, 2017. "Agriculture to Industry: the End of Intergenerational Coresidence," Working Papers 10/2017, University of Verona, Department of Economics.
    15. Fatih Guvenen & Michelle Rendall, 2015. "Women's Emancipation through Education: A Macroeconomic Analysis," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 18(4), pages 931-956, October.
    16. Chen, Xi, 2015. "Old-Age Pension and Intergenerational Living Arrangements," IZA Discussion Papers 9482, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    17. Anders Fremstad, 2014. "Gains from Sharing: Sticky Norms, Endogenous Preferences, and the Economics of Shareable Goods," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2014-02, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • E10 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - General
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General

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