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Allocating Household Time: When Does Efficiency Imply Specialization?

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  • Robert A. Pollak

Abstract

When does efficiency in the household imply specialization? For example, if we recognize two sectors, "market" and "household," when does efficiency imply that one spouse specializes in the market and the other in the household? If efficiency did imply specialization, then egalitarian marriages would be inefficient and an equity-efficiency tradeoff inescapable. This paper clarifies the roles that household technology and human capital play in reaching conclusions about specialization. The critical assumption that leads to the specialization conclusion in Becker's Treatise on the Family is that spouses' time inputs are perfect substitutes in household production. With no further assumptions (other than efficiency and the absence of process preferences) perfect substitutes imply specialization. Although some of Becker's proofs appear to rely on households optimally adjusting spouses' stocks of market and household human capital, the specialization conclusion does not: with perfect substitutes, efficiency implies specialization even when each spouse's stocks of human capital are fixed, regardless of the levels at which they are fixed. Other assumptions about household technology also imply the specialization conclusion. I prove that (again in the absence of process preferences) if the household technology is "additive" and exhibits constant returns to scale, then efficiency implies specialization.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert A. Pollak, 2013. "Allocating Household Time: When Does Efficiency Imply Specialization?," NBER Working Papers 19178, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19178
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    Cited by:

    1. James J. Heckman, 2015. "Introduction to A Theory of the Allocation of Time by Gary Becker," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 0(583), pages 403-409, March.
    2. Angelopoulos, Konstantinos & Jiang, Wei & Malley, James, 2015. "Fiscal multipliers in a two-sector search and matching model," SIRE Discussion Papers 2015-67, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
    3. Konstantinos Angelopoulos & Wei Jiang & James Malley, 2017. "Targeted fiscal policy to increase employment and wages of unskilled workers," Studies in Economics 1704, School of Economics, University of Kent.
    4. Laurens Cherchye & Bram De Rock & Khushboo Surana & Frederic Vermeulen, 2016. " Marital matching, economies of scale and intrahousehold allocations," Working Papers Department of Economics 551159, KU Leuven, Faculty of Economics and Business, Department of Economics.
    5. Myong, Sunha & Park, JungJae & Yi, Junjian, 2018. "Social Norms and Fertility," IZA Discussion Papers 11744, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Angelopoulos, Konstantinos & Jiang, Wei & Malley, James, 2015. "Fiscal multipliers in a two-sector search and matching model," 2007 Annual Meeting, July 29-August 1, 2007, Portland, Oregon TN 2015-67, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

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