Allocating Time

Robert A. Pollak, Washington University in St. Louis

The household production model remains the lens through which many social scientists view time allocation within households. Becker claims that the household production model implies that in efficient married couple households, husbands will specialize in the market sector and wives in the household sector. In this paper I argue that Becker's specialization conclusion rests on auxiliary assumptions to which neither economic theory in general, nor the household production model in particular, have any commitment. These include assumptions about household preferences (e.g., the absence of "process benefits"), household technology (e.g., spouses' time inputs are perfect substitutes), and the number of household "commodities" (e.g., one household commodity). I conclude by examining the relationship between household technology and the technologies of individual members of the household. This relationship is especially interesting at three crucial transition points: (i) household formation, (ii) divorce, (iii) widowhood.

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Presented in Session 4: Family and Work