Culture and the Family
53 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2021 Last revised: 8 Jul 2023
Date Written: June 2021
This handbook chapter focuses on interactions between the family and culture that have significant economic implications. We start by documenting the wide range of global variation in family institutions and discussing some of the profound changes in family structure in the modern era. We next discuss the family’s role in generating economic outcomes given that it is the main transmitter of culture, focusing on female labor force participation, fertility, and human capital investment. We review the persistent effects of different traditional family institutions and describe how cultural practices related to the family, such as son preference, co-residence traditions, polygyny, and marriage payments, affect decision-making within the family and interact with policy. Lastly we examine how diverse forces, including new policies and technologies, have led family institutions and culture to change. We conclude that studying the family in a vacuum, without accounting for the role of culture, may lead to misleading conclusions regarding the effects of diverse shocks and policies, including technological change.
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