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The Manipulation of Children's Preferences, Old-Age Support, and Investment in Children's Human Capital

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  • Gary S. Becker
  • Kevin M. Murphy
  • Jörg L. Spenkuch

Abstract

We consider the link between parents' influence over the preferences of children, parental investments in children's human capital, and children's support of elderly parents. It may pay for parents to spend resources to "manipulate" children's preferences in order to induce them to support their parents in old age. Since parents invest more in children when they expect greater support, manipulation of child preferences may end up helping children and parents. A new result, which we call the "Rotten Parent Theorem," demonstrates that if children are altruistic, then even selfish parents will make the optimal investment in their children's human capital.

Suggested Citation

  • Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy & Jörg L. Spenkuch, 2016. "The Manipulation of Children's Preferences, Old-Age Support, and Investment in Children's Human Capital," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(S2), pages 3-30.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlabec:doi:10.1086/683778
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Bart J. Bronnenberg & Jean-Pierre H. Dube & Matthew Gentzkow, 2012. "The Evolution of Brand Preferences: Evidence from Consumer Migration," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(6), pages 2472-2508, October.
    2. Jonathan Guryan & Erik Hurst & Melissa Kearney, 2008. "Parental Education and Parental Time with Children," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(3), pages 23-46, Summer.
    3. Guttman, Joel M., 2001. "Self-enforcing reciprocity norms and intergenerational transfers: theory and evidence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 117-151, July.
    4. Bergstrom, Theodore C, 1989. "A Fresh Look at the Rotten Kid Theorem--and Other Household Mysteries," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(5), pages 1138-1159, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:jeborg:v:143:y:2017:i:c:p:28-44 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Avner Ben-Ner & John List & Louis Putterman & Anya Samek, 2015. "Learned Generosity? A Field Experiment with Parents and Their Children," Artefactual Field Experiments 00434, The Field Experiments Website.
    3. Francesconi, Marco & Heckman, James J., 2016. "Symposium on Child Development and Parental Investment: Introduction," IZA Discussion Papers 9977, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Francesconi, Marco & Heckman, James J, 2015. "Symposium on Child Development and Parental Investment: Introduction," Economics Discussion Papers 16868, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
    5. James J. Heckman & Stefano Mosso, 2014. "The Economics of Human Development and Social Mobility," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 6(1), pages 689-733, August.
    6. Gary S. Becker & Scott Duke Kominers & Kevin M. Murphy & Jörg L. Spenkuch, 2018. "A Theory of Intergenerational Mobility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 126(S1), pages 7-25.
    7. repec:eee:jcecon:v:45:y:2017:i:2:p:261-270 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Ben-Ner, Avner & List, John A. & Putterman, Louis & Samek, Anya, 2017. "Learned generosity? An artefactual field experiment with parents and their children," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 143(C), pages 28-44.
    9. repec:eee:jcecon:v:45:y:2017:i:2:p:217-218 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Nava Ashraf & Natalie Bau & Corinne Low & Kathleen McGinn, 2018. "Negotiating a Better Future: How Interpersonal Skills Facilitate Inter-Generational Investment," Working Papers 2018-023, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    11. Huang, Fali & Jin, Ginger Zhe & Xu, Lixin Colin, 2015. "Love, money, and old age support : does parental matchmaking matter ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7188, The World Bank.
    12. repec:eee:jcecon:v:45:y:2017:i:2:p:224-245 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Xu Lixin Colin, 2016. "Cheung, Becker and Marriage," Man and the Economy, De Gruyter, vol. 3(1), pages 65-76, June.
    14. Huang, Fali & Jin, Ginger Zhe & Xu, Lixin Colin, 2017. "Love, money, and parental goods: Does parental matchmaking matter?," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 224-245.

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