Capital Ideas Blog

'Home economics' revisited

By Emily Lambert
January 10, 2013

From: Blog


Economists used to write about things like jobs reports, now it's not shocking to find them writing about the family dinner.

In November, Booth economist Emily Oster started writing a series of columns in Slate about economics at home. Her first story, about the division of chores, drew hundreds of comments. She's also taking her views into the maternity ward and putting some of her observations in an upcoming book on pregnancy.

Booth economist Marianne Bertrand just put out research about the gender gap, in which she suggests women make less because of a social expectation that husbands should make more than their wives. In a recent working paper that she co-wrote with Emir Kamenica, an associate professor of economics, and Jessica Pan, an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore, the researchers note that marriage rates decline where a woman has the potential to out-earn her husband.

Economists have long been interested in issues related to gender and home life. Gary Becker published his landmark A Treatise on the Family in 1981. That has informed the work of countless scholars including Harvard’s Claudia Goldin, who received her doctorate from the University of Chicago, incidentally and studies gender and family issues.

But why the recent uptick in home-related research? One possibility: there are huge new piles of data to analyze and model. Also, in this Facebook era, the notion of privacy at home is disappearing. 

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