Valuing children: rethinking the economics of the family

Front Cover
Harvard University Press, Jan 31, 2008 - Business & Economics - 235 pages
0 Reviews

Nancy Folbre challenges the conventional economist's assumption that parents have children for the same reason that they acquire pets--primarily for the pleasure of their company. Children become the workers and taxpayers of the next generation, and "investments" in them offer a significant payback to other participants in the economy.

Yet parents, especially mothers, pay most of the costs. The high price of childrearing pushes many families into poverty, often with adverse consequences for children themselves.

Parents spend time as well as money on children. Yet most estimates of the "cost" of children ignore the value of this time. Folbre provides a startlingly high but entirely credible estimate of the value of parental time per child by asking what it would cost to purchase a comparable substitute for it.

She also emphasizes the need for better accounting of public expenditure on children over the life cycle and describes the need to rethink the very structure and logic of the welfare state. A new institutional structure could promote more cooperative, sustainable, and efficient commitments to the next generation.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


Children and the Economy
Commitments and Capabilities
Defining the Costs of Children

8 other sections not shown

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

About the author (2008)

NANCY FOLBRE is Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. BARBARA BERGMANN is Professor of Economics at the American University, Washington, D.C. and the author of The Economic Emergence of Women. BINA AGARWAL is Professor of Agricultural Economics at the Institute of Agricultural Economics at Delhi University and is currently a Fellow at the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe/Harvard University and the author of several books, including Mechanization in Indian Agriculture. MARIA FLORO is Assistant Professor of Economics at the American University in Washington, D.C.