Chapter 5: Children
1 FAMILY AND CHILDREN The family has always been and continues today to be the institution in which children are usually born, grow up and receive their initial education. From the economists’ point of view, therefore, the family ‘produces’ children, not only in the sense of conceiving them, but also in that the family strives to improve the children’s ‘quality’ through heavy investments in time and money. Many different circumstances influence a person’s development but they are often directly conditioned by the parents. It is the parents who transmit the genes to their children that will determine their physical appearance, intelligence and health. But biological characteristics are by no means all. Parents also offer their children the whole framework in which their intellectual, artistic and emotional qualities will develop. The family is an educating influence both for good and bad. It is no accident that several members of the Bach family were famous musicians or that the Bernouilli family gave the world excellent mathematicians. Neither is it unusual for the children of criminals to turn into criminals too. Therefore children do not only receive a biological inheritance from their parents. They also receive an endowment of human capital which will condition to a large extent both their behaviour and their income levels in the future. As for the children, they offer several types of compensation to their parents. These compensations have varied in nature and importance throughout the course of history and, in today’s developed world, consist basically of psychological...
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