Gary Becker, the Nobel laureate in economics, applied economic reasoning to social circumstances and particularly to families. He argued that children are a normal consumption good, and people consume more children with higher incomes. However, he also emphasized a quantity-quality trade-off. More children in a family means fewer resources and attention for each child. Higher-income couples may opt to invest in classes, training, and spend more time with a unitary child rather than increasing the number of children.
However, goods have multiple attributes and children do not merely provide a stream of consumption value while in the household. They offer access to future resources when they become employed themselves. Having more children or higher-quality children increases the economic benefits that older parents can enjoy, such as more help with household activities and the ability to travel with their adult children. Old-age benefits such as social security now serve the function of insulating people from their prior investments in future consumption.Continue reading