Discussion Paper Details

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Title: Narratives and the Economics of the Family

Author(s): Robert Akerlof and Luis Rayo

Publication Date: August 2020

Keyword(s): Family, Gender norms, Marriage and narratives

Programme Area(s): Labour Economics

Abstract: We augment Becker's classic model of the family by assuming that, in addition to caring about consumption, the family wishes to further a subjective story, or narrative, that captures its deeply held values. Our focus is on two stories that in many ways are polar opposites. The first one--the protector narrative--gives rise to a type of traditional family where gender roles are distinct, men and women are pushed towards "separate spheres," and men are expected to be tough and authoritarian. The second one--the fulfillment narrative--gives rise to a type of modern family where roles are less distinct, family members have greater latitude in their decisions, and marriages are based to a greater extent on romantic love. We derive a rich bundle of behaviors associated with each story, and using survey data, we show that our findings are consistent with a variety of empirical patterns.

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Bibliographic Reference

Akerlof, R and Rayo, L. 2020. 'Narratives and the Economics of the Family'. London, Centre for Economic Policy Research.