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When Children Rule: Parenting in Modern Families


  • Sebastian Galiani
  • Matthew Staiger
  • Gustavo Torrens


During the 20th century there was a secular transformation within American families from a household dominated by the father to a more egalitarian one in which the wife and the children have been empowered. This transformation coincided with two major economic and demographic changes, namely the increase in economic opportunities for women and a decline in family size. To explain the connection between these trends and the transformation in family relationships we develop a novel model of parenting styles that highlights the importance of competition within the family. The key intuition is that the rise in relative earnings of wives increased competition between spouses for the love and affection of their children while the decline in family size reduced competition between children for resources from their parents. The combined effect has empowered children within the household and allowed them to capture an increasing share of the household surplus over the past hundred years.

Suggested Citation

  • Sebastian Galiani & Matthew Staiger & Gustavo Torrens, 2017. "When Children Rule: Parenting in Modern Families," NBER Working Papers 23087, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23087
    Note: ED

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    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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