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The Evolution of Altruistic Preferences: Mothers versus Fathers

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  • Alger, Ingela

    (TSE (LERNA, CNRS) Univesité Toulouse 1 Capitole)

  • Cox, Donald

    (Boston College)

Abstract

What can evolutionary biology tell us about male-female differences in preferences concerning family matters? Might mothers be more solicitous toward offspring than fathers, for example? The economics literature has documented gender differences—children benefit more from money put in the hands of mothers rather than fathers, for example—and these differences are thought to be partly due to preferences. Yet for good reason family economics is mostly concerned with how prices and incomes affect behavior against a backdrop of exogenous preferences. Evolutionary biology complements this approach by treating preferences as the outcome of natural selection. We mine the well-developed biological literature to make a prima facie case for evolutionary roots of parental preferences. We consider the most rudimentary of traits—sex differences in gamete size and internal fertilization—and explain how they have been thought to generate malefemale differences in altruism toward children and other preferences related to family behavior. The evolutionary approach to the family illuminates connections between issues typically thought distinct in family economics, such as parental care and marriage markets.

Suggested Citation

  • Alger, Ingela & Cox, Donald, 2012. "The Evolution of Altruistic Preferences: Mothers versus Fathers," LERNA Working Papers 12.30.387, LERNA, University of Toulouse, revised May 2013.
  • Handle: RePEc:ler:wpaper:26681
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Alger, Ingela, 2021. "On the evolution of male competitiveness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 190(C), pages 228-254.
    3. François Cochard & Hélène Couprie & Astrid Hopfensitz, 2018. "What if women earned more than their spouses? An experimental investigation of work-division in couples," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 21(1), pages 50-71, March.
    4. Alger, Ingela & Cox, Donald, 2020. "Evolution of the Family: Theory and Implications for Economics," IAST Working Papers 20-109, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST).
    5. Walid Merouani & Claire El Moudden & Nacer Eddine Hammouda, 2021. "Social Security Enrollment as an Indicator of State Fragility and Legitimacy: A Field Experiment in Maghreb Countries," Social Sciences, MDPI, vol. 10(7), pages 1-25, July.
    6. Alger, Ingela & Juarez, Laura & Juarez-Torres, Miriam & Miquel-Florensa, Josepa, 2020. "Do women contribute more effort than men to a real public good?," IAST Working Papers 20-103, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST).
    7. Shoshana Grossbard & Sankar Mukhopadhyay, 2013. "Children, spousal love, and happiness: an economic analysis," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 11(3), pages 447-467, September.
    8. Marco Le Moglie & Letizia Mencarini & Chiara Rapallini, 2019. "Does income moderate the satisfaction of becoming a parent? In Germany it does and depends on education," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 32(3), pages 915-952, July.
    9. Walid Merouani & Claire El Moudden & Nacer-Eddine Hammouda, 2018. "Social Security Entitlement in Maghreb Countries: Who is Excluded? Who is not Interested?," Working Papers 1264, Economic Research Forum, revised 03 Dec 2018.
    10. Begoña Álvarez & Daniel Miles-Touya, 2019. "Gender imbalance in housework allocation: a question of time?," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 17(4), pages 1257-1287, December.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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