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How Do People Decide to Allocate Transfers Among Family Members?

  • Donald Cox

    ()

    (Boston College)

Despite recent advances in data collection and the growing number of empirical studies that examine private intergenerational transfers, there still exist significant gaps in our knowledge. Who transfers what to whom, and why do they it? I argue that some of these gaps could be filled by departing from the standard parent-child framework and concentrating instead on fathers, mothers, sons and daughters in a way that accounts for fundamentalÑand sometimes obviousÑmale-female differences in concerns and objectives in family life. Elementary sex differences in reproductive biology constitute the basic building blocks of studies of family behavior in many disciplines, but despite recent progress they get far less attention than they deserve in economic studies of the family. I explore, separately, the implications of three basic biological facts for intergenerational transfer behavior. The first is paternity uncertainty: how does it affect the incentives of fathers, mothers and of various grandparents to invest in children? The second is differing reproductive prospects of sons versus daughters: when are sons a better investment than daughters and vice versa? The third is conflict: How much acrimony might we expect to occur in families, and why? In examining these issues I also explore household survey data from the United States. This preliminary evidence is consistent with non-biological as well as biological explanations of behavior. Nonetheless, the biological focus confers two advantages, by generating falsifiable predictions and by illuminating new avenues for empirical work. There is enormous potential for further micro-data-based empirical work in this area.

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Paper provided by Boston College Department of Economics in its series Boston College Working Papers in Economics with number 514.

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Date of creation: 13 Oct 2001
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Handle: RePEc:boc:bocoec:514
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