Discussion paper

DP15152 Narratives and the Economics of the Family

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.


Akerlof, R and L Rayo (2020), ‘DP15152 Narratives and the Economics of the Family‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 15152. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp15152