Valuing Children: Rethinking the Economics of the Family

Nancy Folbre (Author)

Product Details

Harvard University Press
Publish Date
March 15, 2010
6.0 X 0.75 X 9.5 inches | 0.82 pounds
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About the Author

Nancy Folbre, a MacArthur Fellow, is professor emerita of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is the the author of The Invisible Heart: Economics and Family Values and Saving State U: Why We Must Fix Public Higher Education; a co-author, with Jonathan Teller-Elsberg, James Heintz, and the Center for Popular Economics, of Field Guide to the U.S. Economy; and a co-author, with Randy Albelda, of The War on the Poor: A Defense Manual, all published by The New Press. Her academic books include For Love and Money: Care Provision in the U.S. and Greed, Lust, and Gender: A History of Economic Ideas. She is a regular contributor to the New York Times's Economix blog.


An excellent analysis of economics and family policy. Folbre develops a new way of thinking about the economics of child rearing, that of treating children as an investment rather than a consumption good. Although Folbre characterizes her approach as institutional economics, she has really added to a wide variety of economic fields beyond that.--Sheila Kamerman, Columbia University School of Social Work
This book will become a standard reference work on many of the issues dealing with parenting and the production of valued goods and services. It is encyclopedic in its coverage and exceptionally well referenced.--Samuel Preston, University of Pennsylvania
Folbre...shows why universal childcare should be the ultimate feminist issue. By focusing on the numbers in a new way, Folbre's Valuing Children has the most potential for reframing the debate. She may have the cool eye of an economist, but she strips the need to care for all children of its cultural baggage.--Martha Nichols "Women's Review of Books "
In this capstone work, Folbre, long a critic of the neoclassical economics approach to the family, adumbrates arguments regarding what is wrong with how economists and governments conceptualize and measure the workings of the family, using children as her fulcrum. Children reside at the intersection of family and the state, the marketplace, and the past and future. Benefit-cost accounting of children is woefully inadequate, and society lacks consensus regarding who actually bears costs; what impacts private and public expenditures have on child outcomes; what optimal expenditures might be; and what cost-benefit apportionment rubric stakeholders should employ. Folbre systematically addresses questions surrounding the value of children. Although some answers will not surprise, her unpacking of time, goods, and federal and state program costs and benefits both informs and provokes new thinking. The critical question is, who should pay for kids? The payees and benefit claimants are parents, earlier and subsequent familial generations, children themselves, and society via its government. What should hold these disparate groups together, Folbre implores, is the notion of moral obligation. Would that her vision becomes reality.-- (07/01/2008)