Webpage of Shoshana Grossbard, Professor of Economics at San Diego State University

Professor Grossbard, a major contributor to the New Home Economics (as of July 2010)

Short Bio

Shoshana Grossbard is Professor of Economics at San Diego State University, founding editor of the Review of Economics of the Household published by Springer, an IZA fellow, and a CESifo fellow. She has been a fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford; a visiting scholar at Columbia University, CES in Munich, IZA in Bonn, UCSD, the University of Zaragoza, Bar Ilan University, and ZEW in Mannheim; a visiting collaborator at Princeton University; and has taught economics and sociology at Tel Aviv and Bar Ilan University. She obtained her Ph.D. in 1978 from the University of Chicago, where she learned the New Home Economics from its founders, Gary Becker and Jacob Mincer, and as a student developed her first non-unitary model of household decision-making. She has published 5 books and more than 50 articles on the determinants of marriage, consumption, and labor supply and on the law and economics of household decisions. Her books include: “On the Economics of Marriage, a Theory of Marriage, Labor, and Divorce” (1993), “The Expansion of Economics” (co-edited with Christopher Clague, M.E. Sharpe, 2002), “Marriage and the Economy, Theory and Evidence from Advanced Industrialized Societies” (Cambridge University Press, 2003), and “Jacob Mincer, a Pioneer of Modern Labor Economics” (2006). She has presented her work at many universities in the U.S.A. and Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, and the U.K. She is fluent in English, French, Hebrew, Spanish, and Dutch.

Prof. Grossbard’s Non-Unitary Household Model

Professor Grossbard is the principal contributor on the economics of marriage within the tradition of the New Home Economics started by Gary Becker and Jacob Mincer. In 1975, while working on her doctoral dissertation on the economics of polygamy in Nigeria (under the guidance of Becker, Jim Heckman, and Edward Lazear), she developed her own non-unitary model of household decision-making. She assumed that men and women have opposite preferences about the number of wives in their household and inferred what all non-unitary models predict: the more resources individuals have in marriage, the more they are likely to get their way (see Grossbard 1976; Grossbard-Shechtman 1993).

Her model built on Becker’s (JPE, 1973) second Demand & Supply model, a model assuming many types of men and women (that does not appear in Becker’s Treatise on the Family), on a standard occupational choice model borrowed from labor economics, and on the assumption that ‘homemaking’ is an occupation associated with market ‘quasi’ wages paid by spouses employing homemakers. In the context of a traditional Nigerian society, she assumed that work in marital home production has a supply (by women) and a demand (by men), that competitive markets establish ‘quasi-wages’ for work in marital household production by different types of women, and that these quasi-wages include benefits that husbands provide to wives in exchange for work in household production. She then modeled a smaller number of co-wives as one of these benefits. The predictions that followed: women with more resources such as optimal age and education are likely to have fewer co-wives; men with more resources such as education and wealth are likely to have more wives. These predications were tested in the first econometric study of polygamy, using Nigerian data from the 1970s.

Unlike Becker and others in the NHE tradition who have analyzed marriage (including Alan Freiden, Michael Keeley, Lisa Landes and Robert Michael), she has performed empirical studies not only of marriage markets’ quantity dimension (the likelihood of marriage or divorce; age at marriage) but also of their price dimension, including dowry and brideprice, reservation wages impacting labor force participation, legal protection in case of divorce, and intermarriage.

In Grossbard-Shechtman (1984) she expanded her non-unitary model of married individuals as household production workers and employers to cases in which both husband and wife work in household production and mostly derived testable predictions regarding the effects of individual resources and sex ratios on labor supply decisions. Other intra-household allocation decisions, such as consumption and fertility, are mentioned briefly. The model includes a general equilibrium analysis of labor and marriage markets.

Grossbard-Shechtman (1993), Chapter 4, contains ideas she had presented at the PAA meetings in 1981 (available upon request), including predictions regarding the effects of individual resources and sex ratios (what has been called ‘distribution factors’ in collective models) on individual decision-making power within the household, brideprice vs. dowry, marriage formality, and intermarriage.

Grossbard-Shechtman (2003) develops Grossbard’s theory in the direction of explaining consumption, a major concern of other non-unitary models such as the bargaining and the consensual models (including the collective model). The model explains inter alia why women are charged more by dry cleaners and how immigration can affect women’s contributions to newlyweds’ costs of housing.

At least one feminist scholar has recognized the theoretical work of Grossbard as that of a feminist economist working within the neoclassical paradigm (Barker 1999).

References: Barker, Drucilla."Neoclassical Economics." In the Elgar Companion to Feminist Economics edited by Meg Lewis and Janice Peterson. Edward Elgar (1999); Amyra Grossbard. "An Economic Analysis of Polygamy: The Case of Maiduguri," Current Anthropology, 17 (4): 701-707, 1976; Shoshana Grossbard-Shechtman, On the Economics of Marriage - A Theory of Marriage, Labor and Divorce. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993; Amyra Grossbard-Shechtman. "A Theory of Allocation of Time in Markets for Labor and Marriage," Economic Journal, 94(4): 863-882, 1984; Shoshana Grossbard-Shechtman. "A Consumer Theory with Competitive Markets for Work in Marriage," Journal of Socio-Economics, 31(6): 609-645, 2003.

On Prof. Grossbard’s contributions to the history of the New Home Economics

The New Home Economics started at Columbia University in the 1960s, the pioneers being Gary Becker and Jacob Mincer. More on the history of the NHE is found in Grossbard-Shechtman (1999, 2001). Since Becker obtained the Nobel prize and has continued to have a very productive life, while Mincer died in 2006 after a long illness, Mincer’s contribution to the NHE is often underappreciated. Professor Grossbard has edited a book about Jacob Mincer that includes contributions by Becker, Jim Heckman and prominent students of Mincer and Becker at Columbia’s labor workshop (Grossbard 2006). This book covers discussions of Mincer’s contributions to both the NHE and Human Capital research.

Grossbard (2010, forthcoming) elaborates on Becker’s various theoretical models of marriage, with an emphasis on his second Demand and Supply model assuming heterogeneous men and women.

In Grossbard (in Molina volume, forthcoming n.d.) it is argued that Becker has offered a palette of models, the equivalent of an artist’s palette of colors, some of which are not necessarily unitary. In most of his own empirical work on the family Becker refrained from referring to an explicitly unitary framework. Some of the work of others in the NHE tradition, including Mincer, is compatible with the assumption of independent individual decision-makers.

References: Shoshana Grossbard-Shechtman. “New Home Economics,” in Encyclopedia of Political Economy, edited by Phillip O’Hara. London: Routledge, 1999; Shoshana Grossbard-Shechtman. “The New Home Economics at Columbia and Chicago,” Feminist Economics, 7, 7(3) :103-130, 2001; Shoshana Grossbard, Jacob Mincer: A Pioneer of Modern Labor Economics. New York: Springer, 2006; Shoshana Grossbard. “How ‘Chicagoan’ are Gary Becker’s Economic Models of Marriage?” J of History of Economic Thought, forthcoming, September 2010; Shoshana Grossbard, “Independent individual decision-makers in household models and the New Home Economics” in J. Alberto Molina (ed.) Household Economic Behaviors. New York: Springer, forthcoming n.d..

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