The presence of children can influence importantly how households respond to income risk. The aim of this dissertation is to study how different aspects of families' life-cycle decisions are affected by different sources of income fluctuation. In the first part of this dissertation, I study the relationships between fertility choices, consumption, and labor supply, by developing a model with endogenous fertility decisions and income volatility. Within this framework, fertility choices act as a mechanism to smooth utility over time. In this context, I analyze the insurance value of fertility choices. I use a structural model that combines two features underexplored by the literature: children as consumption commitments, and nonseparabilities of family size and consumption. Having children in the household affects consumption and labor marginal utilities, changing the insurance value of fertility decisions and generating incentives to avoid childbearing during low-income spells. I find that the welfare loss of a negative transitory income shock is 34 to 38 times larger if households are not able to choose when to have their children. These results underscore how costly unplanned childbearing can be to the household in terms of welfare.The second part of this dissertation evaluates the impact of being born under negative conditions in the labor market on human capital formation, and what parental behavior could be leading to those effects. I estimate the impact of the unemployment rates on children's assessment outcomes in cognitive and noncognitive skills. Counterintuitively, the results suggest that higher unemployment rates are linked to positive child development outcomes later in childhood. In my main specification, an increase of 1 percentage point in state unemployment causes an increase of 2.5% of a standard deviation in cognitive test scores after controlling for income at birth, hours worked at birth, and other variables.
- Essays on Family Economics
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