Family economics applies basic economic concepts such as production, division of labor, distribution, and decision making to the study of the family. Using economic analysis it tries to explain outcomes unique to family- such as marriage, the decision to have children, fertility, polygamy, time devoted to domestic production, and dowry payments.
The family, although recognized as fundamental from Adam Smith onward, received little systematic treatment in economics before the 1960's. Important exceptions are Thomas Malthus' model of population growth and Friedrich Engels' pioneering work on the structure of family, the latter being often mentioned in Marxist and feminist economics. Since the 1960's, Family Economics has developed within mainstream economics, propelled by the New Home Economics started by Gary Becker, Jacob Mincer, and their students. Standard themes include:
- fertility and the demand for children in developed and developing countries
- child health and mortality
- interrelation and trade-off of 'quantity' and 'quality' of children through investment of time and other resources of parents
- altruism in the family, including the rotten kid theorem
- sexual division of labor, intra-household bargaining, and the household production function.
- mate selection, search costs, marriage, divorce, and imperfect information
- family organization, background, and opportunities for children
- intergenerational mobility and inequality, including the bequest motive.
- human capital, social security, and the rise and fall of families
- macroeconomics of the family.
History of family economics 
Early economists were mostly interested in how much individuals contribute to social production, which translated into how much labor they supply in the labor market. Production within the household was not a subject that received systematic treatment by early economists.
In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith alludes to the importance of the family in his chapter on Wages. Smith wrote: “But though in disputes with their workmen, masters must generally have the advantage, there is, however, a certain rate below which it seems impossible to reduce, for any considerable time, the ordinary wages even of the lowest species of labour....A man must always live by his work, and his wages must at least be sufficient to maintain him. They must even upon most occasions be somewhat more; otherwise it would be impossible for him to bring up a family, and the race of such workmen could not last beyond the first generation.” Accordingly, the wage received by the worker must be high enough to support the family in order to ensure the inter-generational reproduction of the working class. Malthus added to this analysis in his theory of population growth, where he argued that when wages are high laboring families tend to have more children, causing increase in population and reduction in wages.
The reproduction of the labor force, namely the way workers raise children to replace themselves, is a central issue in Marxist Theory. In Capital, Volume I, Marx argues that the amount of labor time that is necessary for the reproduction of workers is equal in value to the income they need to sustain a family which will raise a child to replace the worker. This amount is called necessary labor time. He calls surplus labor time the labor time that workers spend in addition to necessary time. This implies that for Marx the wage that workers need to sustain their families is one of the basic factors that regulates the economy. When he defines necessary labor time, however, Marx means the market labor necessary to earn the income that workers need so that their family can survive. Some connect working class demands for a family wage in late 19th century to Marx's ideas: male workers demanded that their wages be at a level sufficient to eliminate the need of wives and children to do market work. There is nothing on the production occurring within the family in Capital.
Friedrich Engels wrote on how the economic structure of the family is shaped by the capitalist system. According to Engels, the monogamous family, consisting of one man, one woman and children, is something created by the capitalist system. So are adultery and prostitution, institutions that go together with the monogamous family system. Pre-capitalistic forms of marriage discussed by Engels  were group marriage and pairing marriage. Engels argued, “with the ponderance of private property over communal property and the interest in its bequeathal, father rights and monogamy gained supremacy.” He expected monogamy to disappear with the demise of capitalism. He wrote that within the family men are like capitalists and women are like the proletariat, and full freedom for women can only be possible if women will be brought "back into public industry," (p. 138) as he expected would happen under socialism. In his view under socialism women would not face the double burden of wage work and unpaid household work, since he expected household tasks to be provided as public services. Other Marxist economists of the late 19th and early 20th century like Bebel, Luxemburg, and Lenin also wrote on the necessity of bringing women back into the public industry.
The marginalist school, developed in the late 19th century, moved the focus of economics further away from family. The focus of early marginalists like Léon Walras, Stanley Jevons, and Alfred Marshall was market transactions, so any work done in the household was not of interest to marginalists. The basic economic unit was either the individual or the household, and when they took the household as the basic unit, they were not interested in how decisions were made within a household.
In the 1920s and 30s, economists like Eric Lindahl, Einar Dahlgren, Karin Kock, and Simon Kuznets argued that production within the household was an important part of national production, and without its inclusion GNP cannot be a complete indicator of national production level. During the same period Hazel Kyrk, Margaret Reid and Elizabeth Hoyt tried to develop a new field called consumption economics, trying to bring consumption and production roles in the household within the sphere of economics.
The New Home Economics developed in the 1960's continues to be one of the main approaches in the field of family economics in the 21st Century. The household production functions introduced by Gary Becker in his article “A Theory of Allocation of Time” are used in the analysis of many household decisions. Theodore W. Schultz captured aspects of family that are important for the whole economy and that were emphasized by Becker and Mincer, the founders of the NHE: the production of human capital in the form of investing in children, the maintenance of adults' human capital, the way members of family allocate their time between market and household work, and consumption decisions in the family.“ Contemporary family economics has also been enriched by contributions of Marxists and radical feminists written since the 1970's. While Marxism focuses on how class relationships and capitalism shapes family structure, the focus of radical feminism was on gender, patriarchy and men's domination of women in marriages and households. Marxist-feminists subsequently sought to integrate these two approaches by trying to show how patriarchy and capitalism interact with each other.
Marriages as firms 
The idea that marriages are like firms can be found in the work of New Home economists, Marxists, and feminists. Some Marxists and feminists view marriage of woman and man as analogous to the employment relationship in a capitalist society. A worker who doesn’t own any means of production is similar to a woman who can not earn enough income without a husband, so the husband in a family is like the capitalist of a company. An employment relationship between spouses also forms the basis of some analyses in the tradition of the NHE. For example, Shoshana Grossbard models both men and women as possibly hiring each other's work in household production, which she calls "spousal labor or "Work-In-Marriage". To the extent that husbands employ their wives' spousal labor and pay them a low "quasi-wage" for that labor the husband/wife relationship in this NHE-inspired model is similar to a case of wife's exploitation by husband, as formulated by Marxist-feminist economists.
Legal ownership of the household is a question related to the analysis of marriages as firms. Robert Ellickson has argued that owners of the household's capital should have more influence on decision-making related to the household than those who work in the household's production. In contrast, Grossbard has proposed that those doing the household's production should have more control over decisions than owners of the household's capital. This is another example of parallels between NHE economists and marxist-feminist economists.
The question of how work in domestic production by one spouse is compensated by the other spouse who benefits from the work amounts to establishing terms of trade in a situation of specialization and division of labor. Gary Becker has analyzed division of labor in the household in terms of comparative advantage, generally assuming that women have a comparative advantage in household production and men in production outside the home. This has led to a tendency for feminist economists to dismiss not only Becker's but also other NHE-inspired analyses of marriage.
Other economic explanations for marriage that have parallels in standard economic analyses of firms include explanations emphasizing risk pooling where the risks of illness or being unemployed is reduced with marriage, and the role of marriages in undertaking specific investments, like children.
Division of labor within the family 
Family members divide their time between work inside the household and market work. The family as a unit may decide on which member of the family will do which task. Household work can be categorized in terms of whether the whole family benefits or only some members of the household. Some call 'housework' activities benefiting the whole family like laundry or cleaning and 'carework' activities that are done specifically for another member of the household, usually because that member is not able to do that work for himself or herself. Two basic forms of carework are child care and elder care. Household work benefiting the spouse more than the individual could include cooking or laundry as well as carework for spouses able to do the work themselves.
According to some neoclassical theories, the division of labor between household and market work is related to the utility function of the individuals within the family. In case a family has a greater preference for the goods that can be bought from the market, they can allocate more time to market work and buy goods from the market. If they have tastes for goods that are produced in the household, they may prefer to do more household work and consume goods produced within the household. Becker assumed that women have a comparative advantage in domestic work, which means they are able to produce more within the household, while men have comparative advantage in market work, which means that they are able to earn more compared with women. When women specialize in household production and men specialize in market production, and share what they produce, both men and women maximize their utilities.
Complete specialization however can bring some risks and disadvantages: the need for domestic work might decrease (especially when children grow up)and women who have completely specialized in household work might not be able to gain a decent wage when they return to market work; when both spouses have some experience in domestic work they can be more independent in case of divorce or death of a spouse. Barbara Bergman wrote that women's complete specialization in household labor, namely their being fulltime housewives, often leads to women's financial insecurity and increases their likelihood of being subjected to domestic violence relative to situations of women working in the market and earning wages.
Participation of women in the labor market has grown dramatically since the 19th Century. It has been limited by institutional factors such as quotas on how many women can be employed and in what industries. For example, in England in the second half of the 19th century there was a campaign, supported by working class men, to restrict female market employment. Similarly, there have been bars on women's employment in the United States, including laws preventing women from being employed after marriage. In some countries like Japan, there are still some quotas on the market employment of women or on the employment of married women.
Decision-making in the family 
Economists have different models of decision making regarding the allocation of labor within households. Some assume that there is a single decision maker in the household. If the head of the household is altruistic, he will get some satisfaction when he makes a decision that takes into account the benefit of other household members. Gary Becker argues that altruism of the decision maker of the household also benefits the decision maker of the household, because as a result of altruism he will make his decisions by taking into consideration the benefits of other members. By doing this he will keep them within the household, and increase their willingness to contribute more to the family. Also according to Becker’s Rotten Kid Theorem, even if one of the household members would want to harm another household member by contributing less to the family, then the altruistic decision maker in the family might prevent that particular member from harming the other member. In such a case, an altruistic decision maker might arrange distribution within the household in such a way that the utility the rotten kid gets from the increase of family income will be more than the utility he gets from the harm the decrease of family income causes to the family member he envies. Models of decision-making like Becker’s altruism model don’t take into account possible conflicts that decisions made by one of the household's members could create for other members.
Bargaining models are models that focus on how decision-making within the household may possibly proceed when such conflicts are taken into account. These models assume that household decisions are made by a bargaining process. They apply to bargaining between husband and wife, or between parent and child. Conflicts arises in case the outcome of a decision gives more utility to one party while the alternative decision is more advantage to the other party. According to Amartya Sen in some cases the bargaining agents might not have full perceptions of either their economic contributions to the household or their interests. Based on this possibility he adds two more factors that, according to him, will affect the bargaining outcomes: "the perception of contribution" and "the perception of self-interest." If a party is more aware of his or her interests, he or she will get better outcomes from the bargaining process. Also, if a person has a better sense of the value of his or her contribution to the family his or her power in the bargaining process will increase. According to Sen, when women do market work their bargaining power will improve, in part due to better perceptions of contribution and self interest. As a result, decisions made will benefit women more. For example, Sen has applied this bargaining framework to explain the shortfall of women in the population in some parts of the world ("the missing women" problem): in view of their more limited participation in paid work women have weaker bargaining power in the household, more limited access to resources (food, care, health access) within the household relative to men, and are therefore less likely to survive than in other parts of the world where women participate more in market work.
See also 
- Thomas Robert Malthus, 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population. Arrow-searchable text.
- Friedrich Engels, 1981, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and State, International Publishers, pp 94-146
- • Theodore W. Schultz, ed., .1974. Economics of the Family: Marriage, Children, and Human Capital, chapter-download links. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
• Amyra Grossbard, 1976. "An Economic Analysis of Polygamy: The Case of Maiduguri." Current Anthropology 17:701-7 .
• Michael C. Keeley 1979. "An Analysis of the Age Pattern of First Marriage." International Economic Review  320:527-44.
• Gary S. Becker, .1981, Enlarged ed., 1991. A Treatise on the Family. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-90698-5. Publisher's description & links to chapter previews.
• Amyra Grossbard-Shechtman, 1984. "A Theory of Allocation of Time in Markets for Labor and Marriage." Economic Journal 94:863-82 .
• Gary S. Becker, 1987. "family," The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, v. 2, pp. 281-86. Reprinted in Social Economics: The New Palgrave, 1989, pp. 65-76.
- • Alicia Adsera, 2008. "fertility in developed countries," The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition. Abstract.
• T. Paul Schultz.2008. "fertility in developing countries," The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition. Abstract.
- Janet Currie, 2008. "child health and mortality," The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition. Abstract.
- • Gary S. Becker and Nigel Tomes, 1976. "Child Endowments and the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, 84(4, Part 2), p p. S143-S162.
• Eric A. Hanushek, 1992. "The Trade-off between Child Quantity and Quality," Journal of Political Economy, 100(1), p p. 84-117.
• Theodore W. Schultz, 1981. Investing in People: The Economics of Population Quality, University of California Press. Description and scroll to chapter-preview links.
- Theodore C. Bergstrom, 2008. "Rotten Kid Theorem," The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition, Abstract.
- Olivier Donni, 2008. "collective models of the household." The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition. Abstract.
- Hao Li, 2008. "assortative matching," The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition. Abstract.
- Yoram Weiss, 2008. "marriage and divorce," The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition. Abstract.
- • Shelly Lundberg and Robert A. Pollak, 2008. "family decision making," The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition. Abstract.
• Yoram Ben-Porath, 1980, "The F-connection: Families, Friends, and Firms and the Organization of Exchange," Population and Development Review, 6 (1), pp. 1–30.
• Robert A. Pollak, 1985. "A Transaction Cost Approach to Families and Households," Journal of Economic Literature, 23(2), pp. 581-608.
- Gary Solon, 2008. "intergenerational income mobility," " The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition. Abstract.
- • Laurence J. Kotlikoff and Lawrence H. Summers, 1981), "The Role of Intergenerational Transfers in Aggregate Capital Accumulation." Journal of Political Economy, 89(40), p p. 70 6-732.
• John Laitner, 2008. "bequests and the life cycle model," The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition.Abstract.
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- • Oded Galor, 2008. "human capital, fertility and growth," The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition. Abstract.
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- Gary S. Becker, 1988. "Family Economics and Macro Behavior," American Economic Review, 78(1) , pp. 1-13.
- • Gary S. Becker, 1987. "family," The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, v. 2, pp. 281-86. Reprinted in Social Economics: The New Palgrave, 1989, pp. 65-76.
• _____, 1981, Enlarged ed., 1991. A Treatise on the Family. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-90698-5. Publisher's description & links to chapter previews.
• John Ermisch, 2008. "family economics," The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd Edition. Abstract.
• _____, 2003. An Economic Analysis of the Family, Princeton. Description, Chapter 1 "Introduction" (press +), chapter-preview links.
• Mark R. Rosenzweig and Oded Stark, ed., 1997. Handbook of Population and Family Economics. lst-page ch. links, v. 1A, Elsevier. Description, v. 1A preview, and ch. 1 link.
- • Theodore C. Bergstrom, 1996. "Economics in a Family Way," Journal of Economic Literature, 34(4), pp. 1903-1934.
• _____, 1997. "A Survey of Theories of the Family," ch. 2 in Handbook of Population and Family Economics, M. R. Rosenzweig and O. Stark, ed., v. 1A, pp. 21-75. Elsevier.
• Google scholar search of Theodore Bergstrom family.
- Adam Smith, 2000, “On Wages” The Wealth of Nations.
- Jane Humphries and Carmen Sarasua. 2012. “Off the Record: Reconstructing Women’s Labor Force Participation Rates in 18th and 19th Centuries Europe” Feminist Economics, 18(4)
- Karl Marx, 1999, “The Production of Surplus Value”, Capital A Critique of Political Economy”, http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/index.htm
- Friedrich Engels, 1981, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and State, International Publishers, pp 138
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- Shoshana Grossbard-Shechtman, 1993, On the economics of marriage: a theory of marriage, labor, and divorce. Boulder: Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-8527-X
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- Robert C. Ellickson, 2008, The Household: Informal Order around the Hearth, Princeton U Press
- Shoshana Grossbard, 2007 “Repack the Household: A Comment on Robert Ellickson’s Unpacking the Household, ” in Yale Law Journal Pocket Edition, at http://yalelawjournal.org/2007/04/16/grossbard.html
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