Shoshana Grossbard | Economics of the Family and the Household

Research Themes

NEW WORKING PAPER ON GENDER GAP IN CITATIONS: female authors get cited 24% more than male authors; sample: articles in J of Population Economics and Review of Economics of the Household, two journals in Demographic Economics. Working paper WP 18-078 with HCEO (University of Chicago)

article can also be accessed here:


from chapter for volume A Cultural History of Marriage, forthcoming, Bloomsbury, “The concept of Work-in-Household (WIHO) facilitates the application of labor market analysis to marital firms (in Grossbard (1976) and Heer and Grossbard-Shechtman (1981) I used the more limited term “wife-services”). WIHO is defined as a service that is of benefit to one spouse (for example, the wife) but involves an opportunity cost on the part of the spouse supplying the service (for example, the husband).  Demand for WIHO is similar to the demand for labor. The more productive the WIHO-worker and the more valuable the product of WIHO to the (potential) beneficiary, the higher the demand. Supply of WIHO is similar to the supply of other types of labor: it is upward-sloping and shifts as a function of the characteristics of both worker and ‘job’ (which includes characteristics of the spouse or potential spouse). Marriage markets are markets for WIHO in which demand and supply interact. There are multiple marriage markets for various types of WIHO workers differentiated by education, ethnicity, age, etc.[1

 Markets for commercial goods and services establish prices. Likewise, it can be expected that marriage markets also establish prices where demand equals supply. We hear about prices in marriage markets in those cultures where premarital payments are often paid prior to the wedding. Bride prices are paid by men or their families; dowries by women or their relatives. Many have analyzed bride prices, including Bronfenbrenner (1971), Cheung (1972) and Bishai and Grossbard (xx). Others have studied dowries, including (xx). But what role do prices in marriage markets play in the context of the contemporary United States or other modern countries?  My mentor Gary Becker (1973, 1981) viewed marriage markets as markets for people and prices in those markets as an indication of how much each spouse will access assignable consumption goods and services. In contrast, my WIHO market analysis leads to the interpretation of prices as quasi-wages measuring how much a potential or actual spouse is willing to compensate a person for work that benefits him or her, i.e. WIHO work. These wages help resolve conflicts of interest not only about who consumes what, but also about who does what. For example, prices for WIHO can help individuals organize their co-parenting schedules whether married or in another cooperative arrangement. Take the case of a wife who wants her husband to do more parenting of their joint children. Let her “pay” the husband more for his WIHO and he may switch some of his work hours from the commercial sector to the household sector. Incentives may work in this case, as they work in many other markets.

[1] A more complete conceptual framework can be found in Chapter 2 of Grossbard (2015).

Some propositions I have developed and tested

Proposition: Women are more likely to have a child out of marriage (couple) if laws make it less beneficial to be a married (coupled) vs an unmarried (uncoupled) mother  (does not follow from other household economics models assuming couples make fertility decisions)

              **tested in the context of 19th Century US
              ** tested in the context of 17 different legal regimes; contemporary Western world
              ** tested in the context of states in the USA, recent data, Common Law Marriage

Proposition: women are more likely to be active in the labor force if they face lower sex ratios

              ** tested in the context of the USA, by cohort or across cities

proposition: spouses doing the caring work (work-in-household production; WIHO)possibly get paid for it

tested in the context of individual US data :        
               **   Time in household production and Racial Intermarriage (published as Shoshana Grossbard, Jose Ignacio Gimenez and Jose Alberto Molina. "Racial Intermarriage and Household Production", Review of Behavioral Economics, 1(4):295-347, 2014.)
               ** Shoshana Grossbard and Victoria Vernon. "Common Law Marriage and Male/Female Convergence in Labor Supply and Time Use", Research in Labor Economics, Vol. 41 on Gender Convergence in the Labor Market, pp. 143-175, 2015.