Allocating Household Time: When Does Efficiency Imply Specialization?

49 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2013 Last revised: 28 May 2021

See all articles by Robert A. Pollak

Robert A. Pollak

Washington University in St. Louis - John M. Olin Business School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: June 2013

Abstract

When does efficiency in the household imply specialization? For example, if we recognize two sectors, "market" and "household," when does efficiency imply that one spouse specializes in the market and the other in the household? If efficiency did imply specialization, then egalitarian marriages would be inefficient and an equity-efficiency tradeoff inescapable. This paper clarifies the roles that household technology and human capital play in reaching conclusions about specialization.The critical assumption that leads to the specialization conclusion in Becker's Treatise on the Family is that spouses' time inputs are perfect substitutes in household production. With no further assumptions (other than efficiency and the absence of process preferences) perfect substitutes imply specialization. Although some of Becker's proofs appear to rely on households optimally adjusting spouses' stocks of market and household human capital, the specialization conclusion does not: with perfect substitutes, efficiency implies specialization even when each spouse's stocks of human capital are fixed, regardless of the levels at which they are fixed. Other assumptions about household technology also imply the specialization conclusion. I prove that (again in the absence of process preferences) if the household technology is "additive" and exhibits constant returns to scale, then efficiency implies specialization.

Suggested Citation

Pollak, Robert A., Allocating Household Time: When Does Efficiency Imply Specialization? (June 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w19178, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2287037

Robert A. Pollak (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - John M. Olin Business School ( email )

One Brookings Drive
Campus Box 1133
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
United States
314-935-4918 (Phone)
314-935-6359 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
24
Abstract Views
377
PlumX Metrics