Table of Contents

Vanity Economics

Vanity Economics

An Economic Exploration of Sex, Marriage and Family

C. Simon Fan

This book presents an accessible and sometimes controversial economic exploration of numerous issues surrounding sex, marriage and family. It analyzes the role of ‘vanity’, defined as social status and self-esteem, in social and economic behaviors.

Chapter 23: Parental behaviours and the quality of children

C. Simon Fan

Subjects: economics and finance, behavioural and experimental economics, institutional economics


It is widely recognized that children's behaviour in general and their study efforts in particular matter greatly to their educational attainment. Chapter 22 showed that students' study effort may be closely related to their intelligence. However, it may not be the only determinant. In particular, children's good habits may also matter greatly to their future career success, and parents can often play an important role in guiding children to behave well and develop good habits. What can parents do to induce good behaviour and diligent study efforts from their children? In Fan (2008), I provide an answer to this question by suggesting that parental behaviour can affect children's 'social capital', which in turn influences their cognitive and non- cognitive development. While Fan (2008) focuses on parents' religious participation, the essential idea can be applied to their other social behaviours. In a seminal contribution to sociology, Coleman (1988) emphasizes that social capital greatly affects an individual's human capital formation. Along this line of research, in Fan (2008) I analyse an important and largely ignored form of social capital in the creation of human capital: religion. I argue there that many people participate in religious activities not only due to their religious beliefs, but also because religion is conducive to their children's human capital formation. A number of empirical studies show consistently that religion has a significant positive effect on children's educational attainment and future earnings. Further, sociologists' extensive research indicates that youths raised in religious homes are less likely to engage in criminal activity, use drugs or alcohol and have premarital sex.

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