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Families as Roommates: Changes in U.S. Household Size from 1850 to 2000

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  • Salcedo Alejandrina
  • Schoellman Todd
  • Tertilt Michèle

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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  • Salcedo Alejandrina & Schoellman Todd & Tertilt Michèle, 2010. "Families as Roommates: Changes in U.S. Household Size from 1850 to 2000," Working Papers 2010-07, Banco de México.
  • Handle: RePEc:bdm:wpaper:2010-07
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    3. Doepke, M. & Tertilt, M., 2016. "Families in Macroeconomics," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & Harald Uhlig (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 0, pages 1789-1891, Elsevier.
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    5. Fremstad, Anders & Paul, Mark, 2019. "The Impact of a Carbon Tax on Inequality," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 163(C), pages 88-97.
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    7. Gatskova, Kseniia & Kozlov, Vladimir, 2019. "Doubling Up or Moving Out? The Effect of International Labour Migration on Household Size," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 162-179.
    8. Johannes Schuenemann & Holger Strulik & Timo Trimborn, 2020. "The Marriage Gap: Optimal Aging and Death in Partnerships," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 36, pages 158-176, April.
    9. de la Croix, David & Perrin, Faustine, 2018. "How far can economic incentives explain the French fertility and education transition?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 221-245.
    10. Koulovatianos, Christos & Schröder, Carsten & Schmidt, Ulrich, 2019. "Do demographics prevent consumption aggregates from reflecting micro-level preferences?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 166-190.
    11. Emma Aguila & Jung Ho Park & Alma Vega, 2020. "Living Arrangements and Supplemental Income Programs for Older Adults in Mexico," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 57(4), pages 1345-1368, August.
    12. Underwood, Anthony & Fremstad, Anders, 2018. "Does sharing backfire? A decomposition of household and urban economies in CO2 emissions," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 123(C), pages 404-413.
    13. Raül Santaeulàlia-Llopis & Yu Zheng, 2017. "Why Is Food Consumption Inequality Underestimated? A Story of Vices and Children," Working Papers 969, Barcelona School of Economics.
    14. Chen, Xi & Eggleston, Karen & Sun, Ang, 2018. "The impact of social pensions on intergenerational relationships: Comparative evidence from China," The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, Elsevier, vol. 12(C), pages 225-235.
    15. Annette Jacoby & Peter Lobo & Joseph J. Salvo, 2021. "Estimating Postcensal Household Size for NYC’s Neighborhoods," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 40(3), pages 459-474, June.
    16. 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.
    17. 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.
    18. David de la Croix & Faustine Perrin, 2016. "French Fertility and Education Transition: Rational Choice vs. Cultural Diffusion," LIDAM Discussion Papers IRES 2016007, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    19. Underwood, Anthony & Zahran, Sammy, 2015. "The carbon implications of declining household scale economies," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 182-190.
    20. 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.
    21. 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.
    22. Chen, Xi, 2015. "Old-Age Pension and Intergenerational Living Arrangements," IZA Discussion Papers 9482, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    23. Michelle Rendall & Fatih Guvenen, 2009. "Emancipation through Education," 2009 Meeting Papers 70, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    24. Santaeulàlia-Llopis, Raül ; Zheng, Yu, 2016. "Missing Consumption Inequality: Direct Evidence from Individual Food Data," Economics Working Papers ECO2016/12, European University Institute.
    25. 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.

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    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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