Rotten Spouses, Family Transfers and Public Goods

22 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2014

See all articles by Helmuth Cremer

Helmuth Cremer

University of Toulouse (GREMAQ & IDEI); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Kerstin Roeder

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU); University of Augsburg

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Date Written: March 10, 2014

Abstract

We show that once interfamily exchanges are considered, Becker’s rotten kids mechanism has some remarkable implications that have gone hitherto unnoticed. Specifically, we establish that Cornes and Silva’s (1999) result of efficiency in the contribution game amongst siblings extends to a setting where the contributors (spouses) belong to different families. More strikingly still, the mechanism does not just have consequences for efficiency but it may have dramatic redistributive implications. In particular, we show that the rotten kids mechanism combined with a contribution game to a household public good may lead to an astonishing equalization of consumptions between the spouses and their parents, even when their parents original wealth levels are quite different. We consider two families, each consisting of a parent and an adult child, who are “linked” by the young spouses. Children contribute part of their time to a household (couple) public good and provide attention to their respective parents “in exchange” for a bequest. Spouses behave towards their respective parents like Becker’s rotten kids; they are purely selfish and anticipate that their altruistic parents will leave them a bequest. The most striking results obtain when wages are equal and when parent’s initial wealth levels are not too different. For very large wealth differences the mechanism has been supplemented by a (mandatory) transfer that brings them back into the relevant range. When wages differ but are similar the outcome will be near efficient (and near egalitarian).

Keywords: altruism, private provision of public good, subgame perfect equilibrium, family aid

JEL Classification: D130, D610, D640

Suggested Citation

Cremer, Helmuth and Roeder, Kerstin, Rotten Spouses, Family Transfers and Public Goods (March 10, 2014). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 4681, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2419878

Helmuth Cremer

University of Toulouse (GREMAQ & IDEI) ( email )

Toulouse, 31000
France
+33 1 6112 8606 (Phone)
+33 1 6112 8637 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Kerstin Roeder (Contact Author)

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) ( email )

Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1
Munich, DE Bavaria 80539
Germany

University of Augsburg ( email )

Universitätsstr. 2
Augsburg, 86159
Germany

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