Love, Money and Parenting
With a discussion by Lilly Shanahan (Jacobs Center/Psychology, UZH)
followed by a Lunch-Apéro at the Jacobs Center
How Economics Explains the Way We Raise Our Kids
Parents often struggle with the question of how best to raise their children. In his new book, Zilibotti and his coauthor Matthias Doepke argue that the choice of parenting style is shaped, among other factors, by economic incentives. Consciously or not, parents weigh the expected costs and benefits of different approaches to childrearing. The rising economic inequality can explain changes in parenting style over the last half century.
Based on their earlier research, new data analysis, and personal experience as parents living in different countries the authors show that differences in parenting practices across countries conform with the prediction of a link between parenting and income inequality. For instance, parents in more unequal countries with a high
return on education (such as the United States or China) place more emphasis on hard work. Conversely, in countries with less inequality and stronger safety nets, like Scandinavian countries, parents emphasize the value of imagination and independence, consistent with the casual observation that in these countries children enjoy more leeway than their peers in Southern Europe and the US.
The link between inequality and parenting style raises concerns for the future of inclusive societies. As wealthier and better educated parents spend an increasing amount of time and resources in enhancing their children's future opportunities, Zilibotti and Doepke observe a growing gap between the environments in which children from different socio-economic background grow up. They argue that a parenting gap can turn into a parenting trap that further exacerbates the trend towards more unequal societies.
Fabrizio Zilibotti is Tuntex Professor of International and Development Economics in the Department of Economics at Yale University. He was the 2016 President of the European Economic Association and received the Yrjö Jahnsson 2009 award. He is a co-editor of Econometrica, the former chief editor (2009-14) of the Journal of the European Economic Association, a former director and managing editor (2002-06) of the Review of Economic Studies, and an Associate Editor of the Journal of Economic Growth.