What is family economics?
In family economics, we apply economic concepts such as production, division of labor and utility maximization to the family. It was Gary Becker who came up with the seminal idea that incentives also play a significant role in families. As early as 1992, he received the Nobel Prize for these contributions to the profession.
Exemplary research areas are couples’ motives to have children or how wages differences between spouses affect the working habits of men and women. In this context, examples of research questions are “How do families make decisions?” and “To what extent does the division of labor within the family influence labor markets and economic growth?”. Other research topics focus on the role of women and raise questions such as “How does the availability of child care benefits female participation in the labor force?” Family economics also deals with questions that are particularly relevant in emerging and developing countries. For instance, some researchers analyze the economic implications of polygamy and child labor.
Family economics makes use of both empirical and theoretical methods. This means that on the one hand, data is collected and analyzed (e.g. on the number of kindergarten capacities in Germany). On the other hand, theoretical models are built in order to understand the agents’ behavior and to be able to evaluate the potential outcomes of possible policies. For example, in order to predict how an increase in available daycare affects the work-leisure decision of parents, economists use quantitative models.
The economic analysis of families is also interesting from a macroeconomic perspective. For instance, birth rates strongly influence social security systems. Therefore, family economists evaluate how different policies impact the birth rate and formulate recommendations for policy makers. One might also approach macroeconomics and the family from a different angle: The macroeconomic situation of a country could have an impact on the situation of and within families. In this context, an exemplary research question is whether recessions lead to a surge in violence within families. Therefore, family economics makes a contribution to nearly every topic the German Ministry for Family, Senior Citizens, Women and Youths is concerned about.
At the University of Mannheim, lectures that provide insight into family economics can be attended as early as in the undergraduate (Bachelor’s) degree. The following professors in Mannheim engage in research on family economics, amongst other areas of research: