IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Theories of the Family and Policy


  • Veronica Jacobsen
  • Lindy Fursman
  • John Bryant
  • Megan Claridge
  • Benedikte Jensen

    () (New Zealand Treasury)


Policy interventions that affect or are mediated through the family typically assume a behavioural response. Policy analyses proceeding from different disciplinary bases may come to quite different conclusions about the effects of policies on families, depending how individuals within families behave. This paper identifies the implications of five theories of family and individual behaviour for the likely success of policy intervention. Anthropology documents not only the universality of the family, but also its many forms. Economic theory illustrates the capacity for well-intentioned policy to be thwarted by individual rationality. Evolutionary biology suggests that a number of fundamental drivers of behaviour are genetic predispositions and can be difficult to influence through policy. Sociology emphasises the role of social norms but recognises that individualism limits the influence of society generally on individual behaviour. Understanding the theories of the family emanating from different disciplines can enrich policy analysis by identifying how and why behaviour can be influenced. It also can serve to remind researchers of the resilience of the family and the limits of government intervention.

Suggested Citation

  • Veronica Jacobsen & Lindy Fursman & John Bryant & Megan Claridge & Benedikte Jensen, 2004. "Theories of the Family and Policy," Treasury Working Paper Series 04/02, New Zealand Treasury.
  • Handle: RePEc:nzt:nztwps:04/02

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Fortin, Bernard & Truchon, Michel & Beausejour, Louis, 1993. "On reforming the welfare system : Workfare meets the negative income tax," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 119-151, June.
    2. Roberts, Kevin, 1980. "Price-Independent Welfare Prescriptions," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 13(3), pages 277-297, June.
    3. John Creedy, 2004. "The Excess Burden of Taxation," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 37(4), pages 454-464, December.
    4. Creedy, John, 1998. "Measuring the Welfare Effects of Price Changes: A Convenient Parametric Approach," Australian Economic Papers, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(2), pages 137-151, June.
    5. King, Mervyn A., 1983. "Welfare analysis of tax reforms using household data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 183-214, July.
    6. Felicity Barker, 2002. "Consumption Externalities and the Role of Government: The Case of Alcohol," Treasury Working Paper Series 02/25, New Zealand Treasury.
    7. Amiel, Yoram & Creedy, John & Hurn, Stan, 1999. " Measuring Attitudes towards Inequality," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 101(1), pages 83-96, March.
    8. Deaton, Angus, 1974. "A Reconsideration of the Empirical Implications of Additive Preferences," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 84(334), pages 338-348, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    family; kinship; family structure; family formation; family dissolution; public policy; family policy; regulation; New Zealand; Maori; History; Demography; Anthropology; Psychology; Sociology; Biology; Economics; evolution;

    JEL classification:

    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
    • B49 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Other
    • D19 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Other
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy
    • K0 - Law and Economics - - General
    • R29 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Other

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nzt:nztwps:04/02. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Web and Publishing Team, The Treasury). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.