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Valuing Children

Valuing Children

Rethinking the Economics of the Family

Nancy Folbre

ISBN 9780674047273

Publication date: 03/15/2010

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.

Praise

  • An excellent analysis of economics and family policy. Folbre develops a new way of thinking about the economics of child rearing, that of treating children as an investment rather than a consumption good. Although Folbre characterizes her approach as institutional economics, she has really added to a wide variety of economic fields beyond that.

    —Sheila Kamerman, Columbia University School of Social Work

Author

  • Nancy Folbre is Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Book Details

  • 248 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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