Family Economics

Course content

The family, and how we engage with it, has fundamentally changed in recent decades: “the separation of sex, marriage, and childbearing; fewer children and smaller households; converging work and education patterns for men and women; class divergence in partnering and parenting strategies; and the replacement of what had been family functions and home production by government programs and market transactions.” (Lundberg and Pollak, 2007)


This course explores a large and growing literature that applies the tools of economics to gain insights into partnering, marriage, family life and divorce. Throughout the course, there will be an interplay between policy, empirical evidence and theoretical frameworks:


Family economics applies economic concepts to decision making by individuals and households. Concepts such as production, division of labor, and cooperation are used to understand partnering and marriage (Why? Who?), the organization of household production, investments in human capital, the decision to have children, investments in children, labor market outcomes, and separation and divorce. We will cover some of the classical topics in family economics (e.g., the quantity-quality-tradeoff in the number of children, or the division of labor in the family), discuss the role of gender, and will also include insights from other fields, such as sociology. We will move on to studying topics that have generated much policy interest and many recent empirical advances, such as the family wage gap or the effects of family structure on children.


The course puts an emphasis on examining empirical trends and evidence on family policy issues: We will look at empirical key facts and we will move on to use the family economists’ toolkit to study policies related to different aspects of family economics (such as parental leave and divorce laws). To do so, we will read, discuss and critically assess empirical research papers in the field of family economics. This course lets students acquire an economic toolbox to evaluate family policy issues.


MSc programme in Economics – elective course

Bacheloruddannelsen i økonomi – valgfag fra 3. år

The Danish BSc programme in Economics - elective from the 3rd year


Learning outcome

After completing the course the student is expected to be able to:



  • Explain central economic concepts and models to address questions in family economics.
  • Describe key economic frameworks and their assumptions, as well as their predictions, and apply those in relevant contexts.
  • Read selected articles in economic journals, exctract appropriate conclusions and assess whether the presented empirical evidence convincingly identifies causal relationships
  • Critically assess topics in family economics based on a firm knowledge about the empirical state of the discipline.



  • Discuss economic principles and apply previously learned material when reading empirical papers.
  • Select the frameworks and pieces of empirical evidence, which are relevant for policy questions or debates.
  • Organize scientific evidence to form an argument around a given issue.
  • Find and select empirical evidence from relevant sources (empirical research in the family economics literature as well as aggregate trends and data) to contribute to a discussion of a family economics topic and present concisely in written and oral form, at different levels of detail.
  • Evaluate the real-life relevance of possible economic explanations or scenarios, give an assessment of which explanation or hypothetical outcome is more or less likely.
  • Navigate the sometimes contradicting concepts and empirical papers that we have studied and present their trade-offs.



  • independently extract information from scientific papers in the field of family economics, quickly identify their contributions and limitations.
  • Present arguments orally and in written form based on their reading, individually and in groups.
  • Apply their knowledge in new contexts such as the assessment of policy proposals, and present arguments in favor or against them.  
  • Apply economic thinking to new questions related to family economics.
  • Apply an economic toolbox to evaluate family policy issues methodically.

Teaching in this course will be through lectures, where the lecture time consists of not only frontal teaching, but also student presentations and discussions and group work between students.

The lectures will cover both theoretical aspects of family economics and empirical applications. The empirical applications will also be discussed in a class-like structure, with student preparation and student presentations.

During the semester each student (individually or in groups) must prepare mandatory presentations for the date they signed up for. Note: There is no make-up presentation planned.

The first presentation consists of a brief overview of facts, trends and potentially policy issues related to the topic of the class. This exercise should help you relate the papers covered in class to “real-world” trends and policies. The second presentation will be on a scientific journal article, from a list provided by the instructor in the first lecture. This exercise should help you familiarize yourself with one particular way of empirically approaching a topic in family economics.

  • Selected chapters from Becker, Gary (1994): A Treatise on the Family. Harvard University Press.
  • Selected chapters from Rosenzweig, Mark R., and Oded Stark, (eds.) (1997):  Handbook of Population and Family Economics, Volume 1, Part A. (available online through library subscription)
  • Selected chapters from Averett, Susan L., Laura M. Argys, and Saul D. Hoffman, (eds.) (2018): Oxford Handbook of Women and the Economy. Oxford University Press. (available online through library subscription)
  • Selected chapters from Browning, Martin, Pierre-Andre Chiappori, Yoram Weiss (2014): The Economics of the Family. Cambridge University Press (available online through library subscription).


Selected journal articles – The list provides examples, but a complete list of mandatory reading will be posted at the beginning of the course:

  • Stevenson, B., & Wolfers, J. (2007). Marriage and divorce: Changes and their driving forces. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21(2), 27-52.
  • Lundberg, Shelly and Robert A. Pollak (2007). “The American Family and Family Economics,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, Spring, 21(2): 3-26.
  • Lundberg, S., and R. Pollak (1996), “Bargaining and Distribution in Marriage,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 10(4), Fall, 139-58.
  • Sandra E. Black, Paul J. Devereux, Kjell G. Salvanes (2005). The More the Merrier? The Effect of Family Size and Birth Order on Children's Education. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 120 (2): 669-700.

Students should be familiar with undergraduate microeconomics and econometrics from Micro I and Econometrics I at the Bachelor of Economics, University of Copenhagen.

3 hours lectures a week from week 36 to 50 (except week 42).

The overall schema for the BA 3rd year and Master can be seen at KUnet:
MSc in Economics => "Courses and teaching" => "Planning and overview" => "Your timetable"
BA i Økonomi/KA i Økonomi => "Kurser og undervisning" => "Planlægning og overblik" => "Dit skema"

Timetable and venue:
To see the time and location of the lectures please press the link under "Se skema" (See schedule) at the right side of this page. E means Autumn.

You can find the similar information partly in English at
-Select Department: “2200-Økonomisk Institut” (and wait for respond)
-Select Module:: “2200-E19; [Name of course]””
-Select Report Type: “List – Weekdays”
-Select Period: “Efterår/Autumn – Weeks 31-5”
Press: “ View Timetable”

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment, 48 hours
individual take-home exam.
The exam assignment is given in English and must be answered in English. It is not allowed to collaborate on the assignment with anyone.

In the exam the student should thoroughly cover a topical family economics issue by presenting and discussing aggregate data that illustrate facts and trends connected to this issue, by discussing related economic theory, by reviewing existing empirical evidence on the topic, and potentially discuss resulting policy issues.
All aids allowed


Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
The exam may be choosed for external censorship by random check.
Criteria for exam assessment

Students are assessed on the extent to which they master the learning outcome for the course.


To receive the top grade, the student must with no or only a few minor weaknesses be able to demonstrate an excellent performance displaying a high level of command of all aspects of the relevant material and can make use of the knowledge, skills and competencies listed in the learning outcomes.



Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 42
  • Preparation
  • 116
  • Exam
  • 48
  • English
  • 206