Lifecycle Events and Their Consequences: Job Loss, Family Change, and Declines in Health

By Kenneth A. Couch; Mary C. Daly et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ELEVEN
Family Structure Change
A Discussion

Robert J. Willis

The chapters in this section address the broad questions studied in this volume about the causes and consequences of economic insecurity through the lens of family economics. Family economics is a relatively recent addition to the fields that make up the discipline of economics. The term family economics was coined by T. W. Schultz in Economics of the Family: Marriage, Children and Human Capital (Schultz 1974).1 Family economics itself emerged as part of the creation of modern labor economics during the 1960s, drawing especially on theories of human capital (Becker 1964), female labor supply (Mincer 1962), time allocation and household production (Mincer 1963; Becker 1965), and fertility (Becker 1960).

Before the emergence of the field, most economists viewed the study of demographic and family behavior as outside the domain of economic theory despite the role that Malthus played in the history of economics. Demography was an empirical field primarily conducted by sociologists who were instrumental in creating rich bodies of data that linked family structure and behavior ranging from the U.S. Census to smaller surveys focusing on fertility and contraception. By the late 1950s, “The Hundred Years’ War of Survey Sampling” (Kish 2003) had ended (more or less) with probability sampling victorious and, therefore, with social scientists able to make valid statements about populations using sample surveys. The ability of family economists and other social scientists to test their theories owes much to the creation of cross-sectional and longitudinal surveys that were built on these principles and have become a vital part of the nation’s scientific capital.

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