The American Family and Family Economics

12-04-2023 comment

The American family has not been destroyed by these changes,but it has been radically altered.Family structure has become more heterogeneous and less stable.Long-term marriage combined with childrearing is no longer a near-universal adultexperience,and the intense gender specialization that characterized the traditionalnuclear family of the 1950s now seems archaic.In a continuation of a long-termtrend noted by Becker,the economic role of the family continued to decrease asthe market and the state supplemented or replaced more and more family func-tions,from food preparation to old-age support.
We begin by discussing how families have changed in recent decades:the separation of sex,marriage,and childbearing;fewer children and smaller house-holds;converging work and education patterns for men and women;class diver-gence in partnering and parenting strategies;and the replacement of what hadbeen family functions and home production by government programs and markettransactions.2 After discussing recent work in family economics that attempts toexplain these changes,we point out some challenging areas for further analysis,and highlight issues of commitment in two primary family relationships:thosebetween men and women,and those between parents and children.We thenconsider the effectiveness of policies to target benefits to certain family members(like children)or to promote marriage and fertility.

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