Family

  • The quantity–quality fertility–education trade-off

    Policies to reduce fertility in developing countries generally boost education levels, but only slightly

    Haoming Liu, May 2015
    At the national level, it has long been observed that a country’s average education level is negatively associated with its total fertility rate. At the household level, it has also been well documented that children’s education is negatively associated with the number of children in the family. Do these observations imply a causal relationship between the number of children and the average education level (the quantity–quality trade-off)? A clear answer to this question will help both policymakers and researchers evaluate the total benefit of family planning policies, both policies to lower fertility and policies to boost it.
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  • The promises and pitfalls of universal early education

    Universal early education can be beneficial, and more so for the poor, but quality matters

    Elizabeth U. Cascio, January 2015
    There is widespread interest in universal early education, both to promote child development and to support maternal employment. Positive long-term findings from small-scale early education interventions for low-income children in the US have greatly influenced the public discussion. However, such findings may be of limited value for policymakers considering larger-scale, more widely accessible programs. Instead, the best insight into the potential impacts of universal early education comes from analysis of these programs themselves, operating at scale. This growing research base suggests that universal early education can benefit both children and families, but quality matters.
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  • The effects of recessions on family formation

    Fertility and marriage rates are pro-cyclical in many countries, but the longer-term consequences are inconclusive

    Ayako Kondo, March 2016
    Low fertility rates are a cause of social concern in many developed countries, with growing youth unemployment often being considered a primary cause. However, economic theory is not conclusive about whether deterioration in youth employment prospects actually discourages family formation or for how long the effect might persist. In addition, recessions can affect the divorce rate. Therefore, understanding the relationship between labor market conditions and family formation can provide important insights into the type of policies that would be most effective in promoting fertility.
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  • The determinants of housework time

    Boosting the efficiency of household production could have large economic effects

    Leslie S. Stratton, March 2015
    The time household members in industrialized countries spend on housework and shopping is substantial, amounting on average to about half as much time as is spent on paid employment. Women bear the brunt of this burden, a difference that is driven in part by the gender differential in wages. Efforts to reduce the gender wage gap and alter gendered norms of behavior should reduce the gender bias in household production time and reduce inefficiency in home production. Policymakers should also note the impact of tax policy on housework time and consider ways to reduce the distortions caused by sales and income taxes.
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  • Should the earned income tax credit rise for childless adults?

    The earned income tax credit raises income and work incentives among low-income parents but little goes to adults without children

    Harry J. Holzer, September 2015
    The earned income tax credit provides important benefits to low-income families with children in the US. At an annual cost of about $60 billion, it increases the incomes of such families while encouraging parents to work more by subsidizing their incomes. But low-income adults without children and non-custodial parents receive only very low payments under the program, providing them with little income benefits or work incentives. Many of these adults are low-income young men whose wages and employment rates have been declining for years and who might benefit substantially from expanded eligibility for the earned income tax credit.
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  • Should divorce be easier or harder?

    The evidence, though weak, favors legal, easy, unilateral divorce

    Libertad Gonzalez, December 2014
    Many countries have enacted legislation over the past few decades making divorce easier. Some countries have legalized divorce where it had previously been banned, and many have eased the conditions required for a divorce, such as allowing unilateral divorce (both spouses do not have to agree on the divorce). Divorce laws can regulate the grounds for divorce, division of property, child custody, and child support or maintenance payments. Reforms can have a range of social effects beyond increasing the divorce rate. They can influence female labor supply, marriage and fertility rates, child well-being, household saving, and even domestic violence and crime.
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  • Should common law marriage be abolished?

    The availability of common law marriage may affect couple formation, labor supply, and the decision to have children

    Shoshana Grossbard, May 2016
    In addition to regular marriage, Australia, Brazil, and 11 US states recognize common law (or de facto) marriage, which allows one or both cohabiting partners to claim, under certain conditions, that an informal union is a marriage. France and some other countries also have several types of marriage and civil union contracts. The policy issue is whether to abolish common law marriage, as it appears to discourage couple formation and female labor supply. A single conceptual framework can explain how outcomes are affected by the choice between regular and common law marriage, and between various marriage and civil union contracts.
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  • Pension reform and couples’ joint retirement decisions

    The success of policies raising the retirement age depends on people’s responsiveness to changes in pension eligibility

    Laura Hospido, April 2015
    Rising life expectancy and the growing fiscal insolvency of public pension systems have prompted many developed countries to raise the pension entitlement age. The success of such policies depends on the responsiveness of individuals to such changes. Retirement has increasingly become a decision made jointly by a couple rather than individually by one partner. The empirical evidence indicates that almost a third of dual-earner couples in Europe and the US coordinate their retirement decision despite age differences between partners. This joint determination of retirement has important implications for policies intended to reduce the burden of pension costs.
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  • Parental leave and maternal labor supply

    Parental leave increases the family–work balance, but may have negative impacts on mothers’ careers

    Astrid Kunze, July 2016
    Numerous studies have investigated whether the provision and generosity of parental leave affects the employment and career prospects of women. Parental leave systems typically provide either short unpaid leave mandated by the firm, as in the US, or more generous and universal leave mandated by the government, as in Canada and several European countries. Key economic policy questions include whether, at the macro level, female employment rates have increased due to parental leave policies; and, at the micro level, whether the probability of returning to work and career prospects have increased for mothers after childbirth.
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  • Parental employment and children’s academic achievement

    Quality of parental time spent with children is more important than quantity

    Female labor market participation rates have increased substantially in many countries over the last decades, especially those of mothers with young children. This trend has triggered an intense debate about its implications for children’s well-being and long-term educational outcomes. The overall effect of maternal and paternal employment on children’s cognitive and educational attainment is not obvious: on the one hand, children may benefit from higher levels of family income, on the other hand, parental employment reduces the amount of time parents spend with their children.
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