Over the last four to five decades, a large literature has developed on the economics of the family or multi-person household. In spite of this, non-economists might be surprised to learn that the only model of the household to which a beginning student of economics is exposed is one in which it is depicted as consisting of a single individual, who divides his time between market work and leisure, using the income derived from work to buy a bundle of consumption goods. Now, all models are abstractions, necessarily excluding many aspects of reality, and indeed this model has proved to be extremely fruitful in a wide range of applications. Nevertheless, there are many important areas of economic and social policy, in particular taxation, social security, poverty alleviation, and child support or “family policy”, for the economic analysis of which this model is clearly inadequate.
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