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Economics in a Family Way

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  • Theodore C. Bergstrom

    (University of Michigan)

Abstract

This paper is an advertisement for some facts and ideas that I think likely to lead to a richer theory of the economics of the family. The discussion references many papers from anthropology and biology. Because of the intimate connection between the family and reproduction, it should not be surprising that there is much to be learned about the economics of the family from the study of evolutionary biology. Given the increased prevalence in recent decades of unwed parenthood, divorce with sequential monogamy, and ``non-traditional'' family arrangements, it also seems plausible that anthropological studies of alternative family structures would help us to understand our own. The first section presents an evolutionary theory of interpersonal sympathy among family members. It discusses the genetic theory of kin selection and its implications for human preferences and relate these ideas to theories of the cultural evolution of preferences. The next section takes an evolutionary viewpoint in exploring the riddles posed by the demographic transition and the question of intergenerational flows of wealth. The third section discusses non-monogamous family structures in our own culture and in other cultures. The final section draws on a more traditional source of inspiration for economists. This section outlines an approach to bargaining theory within the family based on recent discoveries in non-cooperative game theory and discusses ways of integrating the theory of spousal bargaining with the theory of marriage markets.(Revised, January 1966)

Suggested Citation

  • Theodore C. Bergstrom, 1995. "Economics in a Family Way," Labor and Demography 9507002, EconWPA, revised 06 Feb 1996.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpla:9507002 Note: postscript, IBM PC with NextSTep OS, TeX, Postscript, pages: 38; figures: included. To appear in Journal of Economic Literature
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Ted Bergstrom, "undated". "Primogeniture, Monogamy, and Reproductive Success in a Stratified Society," Papers _031, University of Michigan, Department of Economics.
    2. Donald Cox & Oded Stark, 1996. "Intergenerational Transfers and the Demonstration Effect," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 329., Boston College Department of Economics.
    3. Theodore C. Bergstrom, "undated". "On the Economics of Polygyny," ELSE working papers 042, ESRC Centre on Economics Learning and Social Evolution.
    4. Ronald Lee, 1980. "Age Structure, Intergenerational Transfers and Economic Growth : an Overview," Revue Économique, Programme National Persée, vol. 31(6), pages 1129-1156.
    5. Bergstrom, Theodore C., 1993. "A survey of theories of the family," Handbook of Population and Family Economics,in: M. R. Rosenzweig & Stark, O. (ed.), Handbook of Population and Family Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 21-79 Elsevier.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    family; evolution; cultural evolution; anthropology; biology; bargaining; demographic transition; wealth transfers;

    JEL classification:

    • J - Labor and Demographic Economics

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