DP15152 Narratives and the Economics of the Family

Author(s): Robert Akerlof, Luis Rayo
Publication Date: August 2020
Keyword(s): Family, Gender norms, Marriage, narratives
JEL(s): D10, Z10
Programme Areas: Labour Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=15152

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.