The Public Interest

Should every job support a family?

Carolyn Shaw Bell

Summer 1975

ECONOMISTS concerned with aggregate employment have never considered it part of their task to explain why a job is thought to be a good thing for the individual worker. That it provides income has been regarded as sufficient justification.  But there is a basic ambiguity here: Should work yield enough income for the worker to be individually independent or enough to maintain the worker’s family? Does the worker get paid as an individual or as the supporter of a household? Should the worker be viewed primarily as a particular human being or as the breadwinner for a family?

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