Family Decisions

Kevin Lewis

November 19, 2023

Child Care Markets, Parental Labor Supply, and Child Development
Samuel Berlinski et al.
Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming


We develop and estimate a model of supply and demand for child care. On the demand side, households make consumption, labor supply, and childcare decisions. On the supply side, centers make entry, price, and quality decisions. In addition, both paid and informal caregivers are available. Child development is a function of the time spent with parents and non-parental care providers. We estimate the model using data from ECLS-B and perform policy experiments. Vouchers that can only be used in high-quality centers or by working mothers are particularly effective, since they deliver child development gains while increasing mothers’ labor supply.

Who Marries Whom? The Role of Segregation by Race and Class
Benjamin Goldman, Jamie Gracie & Sonya Porter
Harvard Working Paper, October 2023 


Americans rarely marry outside of their race or class group. We distinguish between two possible explanations: a lack of exposure to other groups versus a preference to marry within group. We develop an instrument for neighborhood exposure to opposite-sex members of other race and class groups using variation in sex ratios among nearby birth cohorts in childhood neighborhoods. We then test whether increased exposure results in more interracial (white-Black) and interclass (top-to-bottom parent income quartile) marriages. Increased exposure to opposite-sex members of other class groups generates a substantial increase in interclass marriage, but increased exposure to other race groups has no detectable effect on interracial marriage. We use these results to estimate a spatial model of the marriage market and quantify the impact of reducing residential segregation in general equilibrium. For small changes in exposure, the model implies effects in line with recent estimates from policy experiments. We then use the model to assess the overall contribution of segregation and find that residential segregation has large effects on interclass, but not interracial, marriage.

Mothers’ Prenatal Distress Accelerates Adrenal Pubertal Development in Daughters
Molly Fox et al.
Psychoneuroendocrinology, forthcoming 


Human life history schedules vary, partly, because of adaptive, plastic responses to early-life conditions. Little is known about how prenatal conditions relate to puberty timing. We hypothesized that fetal exposure to adversity may induce an adaptive response in offspring maturational tempo. In a longitudinal study of 253 mother-child dyads followed for 15 years, we investigated if fetal exposure to maternal psychological distress related to children’s adrenarche and gonadarche schedules, assessed by maternal and child report and by dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S), testosterone, and estradiol levels. We found fetal exposure to elevated maternal prenatal psychological distress predicted earlier adrenarche and higher DHEA-S levels in girls, especially first-born girls, and that associations remained after covarying indices of postnatal adversity. No associations were observed for boys or for gonadarche in girls. Exposure to adrenarche orchestrates the social-behavioral transition from juvenility to adulthood; therefore, significant findings for adrenarche, but not gonadarche, suggest that prenatal maternal distress instigates an adaptive strategy in which daughters have earlier social-behavioral maturation. The stronger effect in first-borns suggests that, in adverse conditions, it is in the mother’s adaptive interest for her daughter to hasten social maturation, but not necessarily sexual maturation, because it would prolong the duration of the daughter allomothering younger siblings. We postulate a novel evolutionary framework that human mothers may calibrate the timing of first-born daughters’ maturation in a way that optimizes their own reproductive success.

Funny Date, Creative Mate? Unpacking the Effect of Humor on Romantic Attraction
Erika Langley & Michelle Shiota
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming 


Extensive research shows that people are attracted to funny dating partners, with several competing, sometimes conflicting, explanations for why humor is strongly desired in a mate. The present research asks whether humor is interpreted as a reliable, hard-to-fake indicator of some other, valuable trait. Across six experiments, we manipulated humor in a hypothetical date, online dating profile, or video profile and asked which of several traits statistically linked to humor are reliably inferred about funny partners. Humor -- specifically partners producing humor -- consistently led to higher ratings of partner creative ingenuity. This effect was not moderated by gender, and mediated desirability for different types of partnership. Results further revealed stronger preference for a first-date activity requiring creative ingenuity with a funny versus non-funny partner. Humor may signal that a potential partner is skilled at creative problem-solving, which may be particularly important when considering various forms of partnership.

Rethinking household size and children’s language environment
Sonali Poudel et al.
Developmental Psychology, forthcoming 


The number of U.S. children living in households with extended families has greatly increased in the last 4 decades. This demographic shift calls for a reevaluation of the impact of household size on children’s development. Household density (HHD), measured as the ratio of people to bedrooms in a home, has been shown to negatively relate to children’s language. Here, we propose that while greater HHD may result in poorer language abilities, more adults in relation to the number of children in the home may have a positive impact on children’s language. To test this hypothesis, we studied relations between HHD and adult-to-child ratio with children’s vocabulary scores, as well as whether maternal education and household chaos accounted for these associations. Participants included families from a range of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds (N = 275; Mage = 10.85; 51% female; 51% Hispanic; annual income range less than $10,000–over $100,000). In general, higher HHD was related to lower child vocabulary scores. Conversely, higher adult-to-child ratio was related to higher child vocabulary and lower household chaos. These patterns were primarily driven by effects in Hispanic families. Our results suggest that a reevaluation of household size is needed, as more adults in the home can be protective for children’s language development in larger families, an effect that may vary by culture.


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