What is the purpose of child support? How do we determine the correct level? What mechanisms are used in different jurisdictions? Why has enforcing child support become such a target of social policy?

Your paper should summarize 3-4 related papers on a topic in the economics of the family. In your summary, you should consider the following:

i) What is the issue/question addressed in the paper?

ii) Why is this issue/question interesting and/or important?

iii) Who are the decision makers?

iv) What are the constraints facing the decision makers?

v) What does this paper (claim to) add to the previous literature?

vi) Does the approach taken in the paper(s) seem reasonable to you? Why or why not?

Option 2:

You can look at works of fiction through a family lens – see topic (9) below.

This gives you a broad scope. The topics listed below are all eligible topics, and you are welcome to consider other topics as well. If you have difficulty finding papers on a topic, consult with me.

The timeline for papers is below.

The final version of the paper must be typed in 12-point (conventional) font, double-spaced throughout, with appropriate margins; the paper should be 10-12 pages long, excluding references and title page. The title page should contain your name, student number, course, and date.

Potentially Useful Journals:

  1. American Economics Association journals: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles_search.php

  2. Canadian Journal of Economics: http://economics.ca/cje/en/online.php

  3. Canadian Public Policy: http://economics.ca/cpp/en/archive.php

  4. Review of Economics of the Household: http://www.springerlink.com/content/v0r562765672/

  5. Feminist Economics: http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=t713700748~db=all

Also: the NBER working papers may be useful: http://www.nber.org/papers.html

as may be the IDEAS website: http://ideas.repec.org/.

NOTE: You may need to be logged in to your university account to access some of these links.


Timeline for essays Marks for this component

Notify me that you will write an essay: by February 2nd 1%

Topic finalized by February 19th 1%

Information handed in by beginning of class

At least 2 preferences identified.

First draft of paper due by March 19th 6%

Peer review of other paper due March 26th * 2%

Final draft of paper due by 2:30pm on April 5th 15%

Total marks: 25%


The following list of topics and questions is meant to start you thinking about issues; it is not meant to be exhaustive. Good starting points for sources for references for any topic are

i) ECON journals like Canadian Public Policy , Review of Economics of the Household , Journal of Economic Perspectives,

ii) websites like IDEAS

iii) news magazines like The Economist

iv) blogs like Worthwhile Canadian Initiative , Marginal Revolution , Market Design


Wherever possible, emphasis should be on Canadian experience and relatively recent papers and data.

1) Labour market discrimination:

Review the evidence on discrimination by gender. To what extent and in what ways has the situation improved in the last 20 years? What is the role of social policies such as affirmative action? Do you think the #MeToo movement will have a lasting effect? Why or why not?

Notice that any discrimination by gender may be confounded by other types of discrimination – for example, by race, religion, or social class. You might want to investigate this.

2) Parental leave policies:

What are the economic arguments for and against extended leave for new parents? Compare the Canadian policy with that in the US and one other country.

3) Daycare programs:

Should the government be subsidizing child care at all? What are the solid economic arguments for and against subsidizing public day care rather than paying parents to stay home with the child(ren)? What conclusions should we draw from the Quebec experience? What is being proposed in BC (I believe the provincial budget will be presented in mid-February).

4) Divorce and child support:

What is the purpose of child support? How do we determine the correct level? What mechanisms are used in different jurisdictions? Why has enforcing child support become such a target of social policy?

5) Economic wellbeing (money and time) of children:

Has this increased or decreased over the past two decades? How is a child’s wellbeing affected by the socioeconomic status of the families in which they are raised? How important are income, family stability, parents’ work patterns, the biological ties between parent(s) and child(ren)?

6) Volunteer activities:

What has been the effect on volunteer work of the change in the participation of women in the labour market? What are the economic consequences of this? What are the implications of making (mostly male) monetary contributions to charity tax deductible, while time contributions (most from females) are not?

7) Pricing non-market labour:

What are the common ways of pricing this work? What are the pros and cons of each method?

8) Caring labour

Is “caring labour” fundamentally different from standard market labour? How does this affect the wage rate for caring labour?

9) Families in fiction:

Many utopian (and dystopian) novels have well-developed but not necessarily explicit descriptions of the economic roles of families. Describe and compare the depictions in two novels (chosen upon consultation!) Think, for example, of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, or novels by Ursula LeGuin.

Novels by Charles Dickens or Jane Austin would also be appropriate.

Alternatively, you could choose movies or television shows.

10) Families and economic development:

How does the economic role of the family differ in countries at different stages of development? How does the form of international aid affect family roles? What is the impact of migration on families? How does the fall in the Canadian dollar affect immigrants who send money back to families in the home country?

11) Economics of polygamy:

Papers by Bergstrom, Becker

12) Sex preferences: papers by Edlund