Family and Policy-Making in Post-Modern Society

Stefano Zamagni | PASS President

Family and Policy-Making in Post-Modern Society

1. Introduction and motivation

As Aristotle wrote in Politics (I, pt. 2), the family is “the association established by nature for the supply of men’s everyday wants”. Oikos in Greek means home; i.e. house and a group of people inhabiting it. Thus, kinship and residence are intimately linked. Oikos is essentially the place where nature and culture cohabit. That is why family matters are not private matters, as is often believed and argued. They are linked to the common good, that refers not only to the good of the family itself, but also to that of the whole human community. Gaudium et Spes (1964) rejects the idea that family is a purely private good. Indeed, the family is conceived as the “foundation of society” where “generations come together... to harmonize personal rights with the other requirements of social life” (GS, 52). The role of parents and other caretakers in fostering the development of the next generations is indeed critical for the common good. Moreover, the family enacts its social and moral agency through the decisions and practices of ordinary family life. The social capacity of the family as such challenges any notion of domestic life as purely private and rejects the view of family as simply a passive recipient of society’s protection. The family has a public character; it can and must influence society. It follows that economic and political support from public authorities must take the form of compensation, rather than compassion and paternalistic assistance.

The second Vatican Council sets out a social role for the family which is extremely demanding. In addition to the raising of children, it calls for “the adoption of abandoned infants, hospitality to strangers, assistance in the operation of schools, advise and help for adolescents, help to engaged couples, catechetical work, support of married couples and families in material or moral crises, help for the aged”.1 And that is not all: “It is of the highest importance that families should devote themselves directly and by common agreement to transforming the very structure of society”.2

In turn, in his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio (1981), pope John Paul II writes: “Society should never fail in its fundamental task of respecting and fostering the family. The family and society have complementary functions in defending and fostering the good of each and every human being. But society – more specifically the state – must recognize that the family is a society in its own original right, and so society is under a grave obligation in its relations with the family to adhere to the principle of subsidiarity (n. 43)”.

On the other hand, in his Letter to Families (Gratissimam Sane, 1994), the Pope clarifies that the life of nations, states, and international organizations passes through the family: “The family is in many ways the first school of how to be human. Be human! This is the imperative passed on in the family – human as the son or daughter of one’s country, a citizen of the state, and, we would say today, a citizen of the world” (16-19). Few years before, the Pope had told young people in Rome (March 30, 1985) on the occasion of the opening of the UN InternationalYouthYear dedicated to the theme Participation-Development-Peace: “The family is not a community: it is a communion personarum. That means that each one of the members of the family participate in the humanity of the others: husband and wife; parents and children, children and parents... Great, therefore, is the importance of the family as a school of participation! And thus is a great loss when this school of participation is lacking, when the family is destroyed”. In the same discourse, John Paul II clarified that participation is more than a social fact, more than simply being together with others. It means to be fully oneself through being, dwelling and acting together with others in relation to a common good which comes into clearer focus in the family. Participation is learned first in the family. As a communion of persons, the family is the first and irreplaceable school of participation, never forgetting that communion is “union in truth and love” and identified with an act of pure self-gift.

In what follows, I address the problem of the formation of social and economic attitudes in the family and how these might be related to the understanding of humanity as the foundation of participation in an inclusive economy. What is at stake is how the primordial subjectivity of the person formed in the family, may be related to the foundation of social and economic attitudes in the wider society. Before proceeding, I want to stress that I do not share the opinion according to which we live in catastrophic times. Our world is not the worst of all possible worlds, and the problematic aspects of our world are certainly linked to certain negative implications of the conquests so far achieved. However, no reasonable person is prepared to forego those conquests in order to return to an earlier order of things. This is true of many aspects of the modern world, but is particularly evident in the case of the family. No one proposes a return to the family model of past centuries as a solution to the current crisis. At times the traditional family is evoked in nostalgic terms, whilst forgetting that such a model implied the father’s almost total control of the children, and the husband’s total dominance over his wife, together with certain extreme forms of violence concealed beneath the thin veneer of respectability.

In Amoris Laetitia (2016) one reads: “Surely it is legitimate and right to reject older forms of the traditional family marked by authoritarianism and even violence, yet this should not lead to a disparagement of marriage itself, but rather to the rediscovery of its authentic meaning and its renewal” (n. 53). The traditional model of family was undoubtedly more solid, but only because it was supported by a social context that required everyone to observe certain rules, with failure to do so implying dishonour, disrepute and poverty (especially for women). The modern family’s fragility derives from a greater degree of liberty, and from the fundamental role now played by individual members’ feelings and decisions. Therefore, the challenge is to attain a family capable of overcoming the current crisis, but not through an impossible (and undesirable) return to the past, but first and foremost through a further development of people’s consciousness and relational styles. In other words, the edifice of the family has not been destroyed, it has been de-constructed, taken apart piece by piece. We still have all the pieces, but the building is no longer there. All the categories that make up the family institution and define its genome continue to exist. However, these categories no longer have a univocal meaning.The present essay aims to be a contribution toward a reconstruction of the edifice of the family.

2. The nature of the family

There are a number of genuinely political and cultural reasons why it is so difficult to reach an agreement on what defines a family (P. Donati, 2022). There are two archetypal models of the family that in recent literature have been taken to represent the entire universe of families. On the one hand, there is the model that sees the primacy of the family as a collective body over its members, with the difference between the sexes perceived as the fundamental element underlying the institution of marriage; on the other hand, there is the family model that endorses the primacy of individual over the family, and that sees the sexist logic as superseded. The former model is somewhat imprecisely referred to as that of the traditional family, based on communitarian principles, while the latter model is considered as representing the modern family based on the centrality of the individual. Notwithstanding the noticeable differences between the two models, they have both come up against the same aporia: their inherent reductionism. Indeed, while one model favours the institutional dimension at the expenses of the individual one, the other exalts the utilitarian component of the family, that is, the individual interests of the spouses and their children, but fails to see the good of the family unit as such. It is indeed true that the institutional dimension of the family is a value in itself that requires safeguarding, as it guarantees the duration and stability of the family; however, it is just as true to say that individual members’ appeal to the family to protect and promote their interests is also a value that merits safeguarding.3

The dichotomy between the patriarchal family and the bourgeois-individualistic family has ended up perpetuating family policies which on the one hand are not fit for purpose, and on the other hand are of a contradictory nature. Just take the tax system, which is currently hotly debated like never before. Why on earth should a family allowance be applied to income tax if the family is patriarchal, or if it is merely a centre of individual interests? In the first case, it should be the “patriarch” who pays for the consequences of his life choices; in the second case, contractual-type relations between family members should govern their respective interests. If the family is reduced to a mere locus for the protection of individual interests, whether of the “head of the family” or of the individual family members, it loses its centre of gravity. In the past, this loss ensued as a result of the exaggerated nature of the patriarchal logic; today the family loses its centre of gravity because every effort is made to safeguard the individual family member (whether parent or child), regardless of the family, and at times against the interests of the family as such.4

This is why whosoever wishes to revitalize the debate regarding family policies, in particular those concerning the work-life balance, has to try to go beyond the rigid dichotomy between the two ideal-type models, both of which have now reached an impasse. What needs to be done is to demonstrate that institutional and individual dimensions can co-exist. However, to attempt something of this kind, we need to grab the bull by the horns as it were.We need to make our minds up about the constituent elements of what is known as the genome of the family.What do we mean by the term “family”?What elements constitute its original structure?We are convinced that the majority of disagreements and misunderstandings that invariably arise when efforts are made to design a new welfare system for families, ultimately derive from the fact that no agreement has been reached yet on a substantive definition, rather than just a formal (legal) one, of the term “family”.

In this regard, I consider of great relevance what Pope Francis has written in his celebrated Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (2015): “I would stress the great importance of the family which it is the place where life – the gift of God – can be properly welcome and protected against the many attacks to which is exposed ... In the face of the so-called culture of death, the family is the heart of the culture of life. In the family we first learn how to show and respect life ... In the family we learn to ask without demanding, to say ‘thank you’ as an expression of genuine gratitude for what we have been given, to control our aggressivity and greed ... These simple gestures of heartfelt courtesy help to create a culture of shared life and respect for our surroundings” (n. 213).

The consequence of the above failing is that, in practice, a position of strict pragmatism tends to prevail: depending on the specific problem in hand – the protection of minors rather than the dependent elderly, or of women rather than men – the chosen definition tends to be the most accommodating one. The family may be the one registered with the authorities; it may be the legally recognized family; or it may be the one defined by religion or in psychological-sociological terms, and so on. In other words, families are all those forms of living together that individuals choose to adopt: families of choice, as they are frequently termed. In turn, such an attitude follows from the philosophical premise according to which only the individual is real and only the individual is the original reality: family is a derivative entity.Whilst in the natural law tradition the maxim was – as suggested by Pindar – “become what you are”, in the individualistic paradigm, the maxim has become “volo, ergo sum” (I want, therefore I am): I want to be the author of my life. Charles Taylor5 brilliantly demonstrated that the gradual transformation, following the Second World War, of the principle of equal dignity of all human beings into their right to be recognized as different from others, regardless of what form this takes, has led, perhaps unwittingly, to the acceptance of the fact that civil partnerships of one kind or another have to enjoy the same level of attention and respect as that of the family.

3. The genome of the family

Following P. Donati,6 four are the elements constituting and characterizing the genome of the family, that is, the latent structure that gives rise to that specific social structure known as the family relationship. These four elements are: gift, reciprocity, generativity and sexuality as conjugal love. The family is thus a living community in which these four elements interact among themselves in a definitive way. The male-female complementarity underlying sexuality is not a mental process that a person goes through, but rather a genuine relationship that develops between two people of the opposite sex. In this way, Donati is able to show that his conceptualization of the family’s genome implies superseding both the individualistic model and the patriarchal model of the family. In fact, while the former fails to make room for the logic of gift as gratuitousness, the latter model does not recognize the concerns of conjugal love, since it subjugates this love to values deemed of higher order, such as those of family solidarity and generational dependency. As affirmed in the Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World, drawn up in 2004 by the then Cardinal Ratzinger (and approved by Pope John Paul II):

The human creature, in its unity of soul and body, is characterized therefore, from the very beginning, by the relationship with the other-beyond-the-self. This relationship is presented as still good and yet, at the same time, changed. It is good from its original goodness, declared by God from the first moment of creation. It has been changed however by the disharmony between God and humanity introduced by sin. ... In the course of the Old Testament, a story of salvation takes shape which involves the simultaneous participation of male and female. While having an evident metaphorical dimension, the terms bridegroom and bride – and covenant as well – which characterize the dynamic of salvation, are much more than simple metaphors. This spousal language touches on the very nature of the relationship which God establishes with his people.

The basis of the spousal relationship thus lies in the recognition of the incomplete nature of both Men and Women, which thus makes it necessary to implement specific, carefully measured actions designed to permit the full expression of the principle of complementarity. In other words, it is not enough to claim the existence of complementarity in order for it to be achieved in practice. In fact, in the absence of a specific plan of action, the relationship itself may be drawn into a destructive spiral, which is what almost always happens when the presence of the man triggers the negative aspects of the woman, linked to her incompleteness, and vice-versa.

When treated knowingly, gender difference becomes complementary differentiation rather than mutual extraneousness tending towards conflict. This is particularly the case in families with children, who will only be welcomed in a fully humanizing manner if they encounter both a maternal and a paternal relationship. In fact, one should not forget that the family, through the couple that establishes it, is the place not only of biological generativity of life, but also the sphere of human protection expressed in the form of civilization. Thus, the family exists fully when structured on the basis of the complementariness of male and female, and on the basis of the complementariness of different generations. Proclaiming the family as a community of life based on gift, reciprocity, generativity and sexuality, implies superseding both the bourgeois-individualistic model and the patriarchal model. Indeed, while bourgeois enlightenment fails to make room for the logic of gift as gratuitousness, the patriarchal model does not recognize the concerns of conjugal love, since it subjugates such love to values deemed of a higher order, such as that of family solidarity and of generational dependency.

Where does this concept of the family’s genome lead to in practical terms?To a vision of the family as a common action.There are three elements that characterize a common action.The first is that it cannot be completed without all those involved being aware of exactly what they are doing. The mere convening or gathering of several people does not meet this requirement. The second element is that each of those involved in the joint action remains accountable for what he or she does. This is what distinguishes common action from collective action. In the case of a collective action, in fact, the individual and his/her identity disappears, as does personal responsibility for what he or she does. The third element is the unification of the efforts of those involved in the common action, in order to achieve the same objective. The interaction of several people within a given context does not constitute a common action if they are each pursuing a different purpose. The family, insofar as it possesses all three of the aforesaid elements, does constitute a real common action.7

Nevertheless, there are diverse forms of common action – and thus diverse types of family – that exist in practice, depending on the object of the communality. In fact, the latter may concern means only, or may also concern the end (telos) of the action itself. In the former case, the family is little more than a mutual aid society, and the form that inter-subjectivity takes in such a case is characteristically that of the contract. As we know, the parties to a contract certainly need to contribute towards the completion thereof, but it is also true that each pursues different, often opposing, aims (as happens, for example, in an employment contract). On the contrary, if communality is extended to include ends as well as means, then the family constitutes a common human good. There is a difference between the situation in which a group of people agree that each shall pursue his/her own end, and the situation in which there is a common end to be pursued by all together.8

According to Aristotle,9 “there must be a union of those who cannot exist without each other, namely of male and female, so that the race may continue – and this is a union which is formed, not by deliberate purpose, but because, in common with other animals and with plants, mankind have a natural desire to leave behind them an image of themselves”. However, families are also economic units that share consumption, coordinate work activities, accumulate wealth and invest in children. To this specific regard, Aristotle adds: “The family is the association established by nature for the supply of men’s everyday wants”. In a very interesting paper, V. Hosle (PASS, April 2021) refers to four main theories of family developed by philosophers: Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Hegel. These authors represent four paradigmatic views; i.e. Plato, the negation of family considered as a major threat to the political order of polis; Aristotle, a biological rooted doctrine of social institutions; Kant, a contractualist understanding of marriage; Hegel, the attempt of a reconciliation of the ancients and moderns. The present writer recognises himself in the Aristotelian paradigm.

What are the practical implications of the aforementioned distinction, when one comes to the design of family policies? When the “common element” of the action goes no further than the means, the problem to be resolved is basically that of coordinating the actions of a certain number of agents. On the other hand, when the “common element” of the action also concerns the ends pursued, then the problem is how to enact the cooperation of those concerned. In other words, problems of coordination derive from the strategic interdependence of several persons; problems of cooperation, on the other hand, derive from people’s axiological interdependence. To put it differently, in the case of cooperation, intersubjectivity constitutes a value insofar as being-with-others entails personal happiness; in the case of coordination, on the other hand, intersubjectivity is a circumstance which at times may even be bothersome. Thus, while in the case of coordination there is no need for any dialogue among those involved, since each person only needs to know what the others are going to do in order to implement his/her own project, in the case of cooperation, those involved must dialogue and exchange “moral information” in order to adjust their contribution towards the common end.

The question arises: how can we successfully resolve the problem of cooperation, and thus share the experience of a common human good residing within the family community? Three preconditions should be satisfied. Firstly, each participant in the common action – that is, each member of the family – considers the intentions of the others to be important and worthy, knowing that the others will do likewise. This is what the English philosopher M. Bratman10 calls the condition of mutual responsiveness: the fact that the members of a family intend to carry out the same action is not sufficient; they must want to do so together. Secondly, each member undertakes a joint activity, and knows that the others intend to do likewise. This is the commitment to the joint activity, whereby each person undertakes to perform such activity despite being aware that it is impossible to determine each person’s respective contribution to the final result. Finally, there is the commitment to mutual support, i.e. the principle of reciprocity: each person undertakes to help the others during the carrying out of the activity in question, rather than at the end of activity itself as happens in the case of extreme paternalism. This help is designed to improve the talent of those who need such help, and not to establish any meritocratic hierarchy. A question immediately comes to mind: how can contemporary society, increasingly keen on “individualizing individuals”, as Baumann puts it, manages to preserve the family’s identity and avert the risk of altering its very genome? In a context like that of the present day, profoundly affected by globalization and the revolution of new technologies, can we believe (and hope) in the possibility of formulating effective family policies? My answer is positive as I will suggest in the next sections.

4. What the family “brings in” to society

In order to appreciate the fundamental role the family plays as a supplier of resources for human integral development, let’s consider what exactly the family “gives” to society as an economic agent. First of all, the family is one of the most important originators of positive social externalities.11 As a consequence of obsolete statistical methods of analysis, these effects end up not existing, as only what can be quantified and measured by monetary standards exists. However, these effects cannot be ignored as they are essential for the definition of the very notion of wellbeing of a population.

What are the main positive social externalities? First, the reproduction of society. The decision to have children is a private resolution that, however, has positive long-lasting effects on the community – as all those who have to deal with demographic transition and inter-generational economic-financial balance know very well. Let’s consider, for example, the link between entrepreneurial vitality and age composition of the population. An aging society is a society that cannot maintain over time the rate of entrepreneurship necessary to keep the whole economic system alive. The current popular belief is that the cost of procreation should be borne by the family itself, as if the decision to have children could be compared with any other consumption choice.

A second form of positive externality concerns the integration and redistribution of labour income. We all know the ability of the family to rebalance the distribution of personal income, which tends to become less uneven when we shift our attention from personal to family distribution. In fact, the family is a powerful “social shock-absorber”, as it collects and redirects family members’ incomes. It’s worth noting that the redistribution function no longer concerns, as in the past, the nuclear family but the generational chain (grandchildren, parents, grandparents). This new development may both strengthen and weaken the family’s task of integration, and this will clearly depend on the type of economic policy adopted. In fact, only a policy conceived for the generation chain (and not for its individual segments, as it is currently the case with policies for children, for the ageing population, for young families) can counter the cost associated with aggregating the risks of individuals belonging to different generations.12

Thirdly, the family is the institution that first and foremost supports and safeguards the weakest – from children in pre-school age to non-self-sufficient elderly; from the care of the disabled to providing assistance to the sick. To generalize a bit, it should be stressed that beyond gains from specialization and economies of scale, the family serves as a provider of insurance against various risks persons face through their life in an uncertain world. Since information barriers are typically fairly low within a family, such an insurance could even outperform private or public insurance schemes, which may suffer from typical market failure problems. The idea that a family acts as a risk-sharing institution is not new. However, the insurance role of the family has changed during past decades owing to several factors: a fundamental transition in the gender wage gap and female labour force participation; the legal framework; the dynamics of household formation over the life cycle.13

A fourth important positive externality concerns the creation of human capital. It is well-known that human capital doesn’t depend only on the investment in education and training of an individual and on the social circle, but also on the family environment. The interaction between subjects, through the skill-over effect, enables a mutual exchange of knowledge and this, by itself, increases the stock of human capital. By nature, the family is the place where the interaction between its members is more intense and less subject to opportunistic phenomena; within the family occurs a systematic transfer of knowledge from one member to the other is taking place; the transfer being made possible by proximity and kinship.

Finally, the family, as primary education agency, represents for the young generations the dowry of human capital that makes them less vulnerable when accessing adult life.That’s why a stronger family provides the individual with a higher, coeteris paribus, effective stock of skills and competences and thus a higher average productivity for the whole system. The first years of life are a particularly important period for children. Recent research emphasizes the effects of early influences on brain development, and investments during young childhood are likely to be significant for the growth of learning skills, self-esteem and emotional security.14

The above five categories of positive externalities can be aggregated to form the “family social capital” that indicates the specific contribution of the family to the progress of society. To recall, social capital is the set of trust relations, based on the principle of reciprocity, between individuals belonging to one community – in our case, the family (the Latin term fides i.e. trust, means “rope”). Thus, it is not a sentiment or a mere emotion, but something as concrete as the rope that ties people together. In his famous book on Italy,15 the American political scientist Robert Putnam clarified that there are three forms of social capital: bonding, bridging, linking. Under present conditions, the great task of family networks is to facilitate the rapid accumulation of the bridging and linking types of social capital through social partnerships. These are forms of joint collaboration between different individuals and organizations that are based on voluntary-mutual relations that share resources, skills and risk to attain objectives of common good.

Clearly, not all families are able to generate positive externalities and promote social cohesion. Well-known are the cases where the family, instead of being an opportunity, represents a constraint and a disadvantage both for its members and society at large. The reasons for this are well-known. However, this should in no way be interpreted as a signal of decline of the family entity as the most fruitful relational space for primary socialization. Conversely, these cases should invite us to reflect on the meaning of a correlation of the utmost importance: the more unequal the income (and wealth) distribution in a society, the more the negative externalities of the family outnumber the positive ones. And vice-versa. We should never underestimate the following point: if in a certain context, the family becomes a drawback and a burden for society, the responsibility lies not only (or mainly) with the family, but rather with the inertia and inaction of other social actors, first of all the State when it fails to implement policies that would be within its reach.

The family is where many of the key decisions that are relevant for the economic sphere are made. The family matters not only for its role in household-level decision, but also through its effect on the evolution of institutions. Consider the role of the family for the transmission of preferences, cultural values and attitudes, which typically feed back into economic outcomes. Moreover, the family is a driver of political change, since for most of the major political reforms associated with human integral development, the reorganization of families is a key reason for why political incentives changed.Yet, the family is typically ignored in macroeconomics.16 The still dominant approach in economics is the unitary model of the family initiated by G. Becker,17 according to whom the family is considered a single unit where decisions are jointly taken by its members and where incomes are pooled and shared equally. This is the so-called “income pooling hypothesis” as used in the “new households economics”. According to Becker, “A household is truly a small factory: it combines capital goods, raw materials, and labour to clean, feed, procreate and otherwise produce useful commodities”. In discussing sex roles, Becker relies on the principle of comparative advantage. Thus, a mother will spend more time with her child than her husband (or partner) if the ratio of her productivity at home to her market wage exceeds that of her husband. The couple can then divide the gains in total output resulting from specialization.18

It is true that in the last forty years, this classic model has been expanded to recognize the difference in preferences and power between family members. Family composition is associated with income capacity. Thus, family composition stratifies income. At the same time, income pooling also redistributes. It allows individuals without income to benefit from the other members.19 A more recent attempt to augment Becker’s classic model of the family is that of R. Akerlof, L. Royo20 who assume that, in addition to caring about standard economic goods, the family wishes to further a subjective story, or narrative, that captures its deeply held values, i.e. its identity. The Authors focus on two stories. The first one gives rise to a type of traditional family where gender roles are distinct, men and women are pushed towards “separate spheres” and men are expected to behave in an authoritarian way. The second story gives rise to a type of modern family where roles are less distinct, family members have gender latitude in their decisions, and marriages are based to a greater extent on love. By modelling the family as an agent maximizing the sum of utilities from consumption and from its story, the Authors derive a rich bundle of behaviours associated with each story and show that their findings are consistent with a variety of empirical patterns.

All these and similar attempts to improve the grip on reality of the dominant economic approach to the study of the family should be recognized and even appreciated. However, they are unable to overcome a fundamental paradox: none of the gains ascribed to the family – as clearly specified in Browing and al.’s (2014) book – require the family as such. Indeed, in the absence of market failures and government failures, the family as a natural institution that realizes a comprehensive union of persons, uniting people in their minds and bodies, would be redundant, i.e. irrelevant, if the purpose is to maximize the sum-total of individual utilities. This is tantamount to negating the nature of the family as a fundamental relational good – a vision which is very distant from the functionalist accounting of individual gains.21 In Humana Communitas (2019) by Pope Francis, we read: “The ability of the family to initiate its members to human fraternity can be considered a hidden treasure that can aid general rethinking of social policies and human rights whose need is too urgently felt today”.

5. Premises for a family policy adequate to present times

In view of the above, which premises should be taken into careful consideration in the design of a family policy that aspires to recognize and revitalize the mediating role of the family? It is a fact that the growth of mega-institutions, both corporate and governmental, in the last few decades has undermined society’s mediating institutions; in particular, the family has also been undermined by economic conditions. Yet, it is the mediating institutions that always have given meaning to people’s lives and through which, in turn, they have impressed their values on society. I will suggest three such premises.

The first relates to the economic-cultural dimension of the question. It consists in the affirmation that the family must be seen as a subject possessing its own identity and autonomy, and not merely as an aggregator of individual preferences. Acceptance of this principle will favour the rethinking of the usual mode of perceiving the working of a market economy. Our national systems of accounting feature two operators from the private sphere: firms and families. The former are assigned the task of carrying out productive activities: firms do not consume, but use – as the expression goes – factors of production in order to achieve their purposes. Families, on the other hand, are the consumers of those goods and services produced by the firms. Families do not produce anything according to the national systems of accounting. The division of roles is therefore clear: the family, insofar as it is the place in which needs are satisfied, is the subject to which the consumption function is attributed; the firm, insofar as it is the entity responsible for the process of development, is the place where production takes place.

Having postulated that no production of any kind takes place within the family, one can understand why it is that the calculation of national income offers no place for all those things produced within the family. For example: the meal prepared in the family is not recorded as a productive activity, but as a form of consumption measured by the purchase of those ingredients required to prepare the meal itself. However, the same meal consumed in a restaurant is recorded as a productive activity. Furthermore, a parent’s caring for a child within the home is recorded as an act of consumption, whereas the same activity performed by a paid nanny is included in the calculation of national income as an expression of a productive activity. And so on and so forth.

The point that should be made here is that the method accepted by the national accounting system “perceives” the household and thus records the important variables of those who live in the same house; what it does not “perceive” is the home, that is, the series of relations connecting the members of the same family, as well as connecting the three generations of grandparents, parents and children present within the family. It is comforting to see that the 5th Eurofoundation Survey (European Working Conditions Survey, 2010) of the 27 EU countries, has begun to follow this line of reasoning, even if one should not forget that to date the European Union has yet to recognize the notion of family citizenship. Therefore, unless the system of national accounting is changed, it would be proper to avoid confusing people by calling the family an entity that, in reality, is simply a plural individual. Indeed, if consumption is defined as the acquisition of goods and services in the market, it is clear that there is no need to talk of the family as an economic subject. To purchase goods and services, an individual suffices! And this is not all. What link is there in our market economies between production decisions and consumption decisions? The answer lies in the sovereignty of the consumer principle, as conceived by J.S. Mill already in the mid 19th century: production decisions (what, and how much, is to be produced) are guided, through the price system, by consumers’ free choice. Firms are only assigned the task of deciding how to produce. So, if it were true that the consumer-family is really sovereign in the market, then the family would be assigned an extremely important task, namely that of contributing towards the definition of the model of consumption, and thus of the lifestyle of its components. However, as one can imagine, it is going to take considerable time before such a state of things is established: even in our post-industrial society, it is the production side that continues to fix the rules of the economic game.

The adoption of a family perspective in the construction of a much-needed new system of national accounting would allow us to better understand the connection between the distribution of work and that of incomes. It is a fact that the loss of work by a member of a family has negative effects not only at the individual level, but also on the well-being of the whole family. The adoption of family as unit of analysis implies the necessity to define specific indicators to evaluate the employment status of a population. One such indicator is the “jobless households rate”, which measures the share of families where all components have no job over the total number of families. Indeed, the adoption of such an indicator would be essential in the design of policies aimed at combatting poverty and social exclusion. This is so since the rate of employment is of no great help to that purpose: for a given rate of employment, the number of jobless households varies according to the way employed people are distributed across families.22 A sustainable family is one which nurtures and supports its members along all their life cycle, providing an environment where the members can find the necessary economic, emotional and spiritual support.

A second important premise for a new family policy, concerns the family’s economic subjectivity.The family is the first “firm”, insofar as it produces positive social externalities for the whole of society. If things stand – as they do – in such terms, then economic support must take the form of repayment or compensation, rather than – as it continues to be – compassion or paternalistic assistance. In other words, family policies must not be confused with policies for fighting poverty, which remains a fundamental option. The well-known Italian philosopher Antonio Rosmini had understood the point well when, almost two centuries ago, wrote: “The State must recompense the family for the indirect benefit gained by the whole of society from the family’s domestic virtues”.23

Which lines of action would ensue, following the acceptance of the principle of compensation? The first and foremost would be of a fiscal nature. What to say of the objection raised by those who, despite agreeing in theory with the principle of horizontal equity in favour of families with children, deem such a principle to be inapplicable in practice? What is true is that disinterest in horizontal equity is the result of a markedly individualistic cultural stance whereby the decision to have children pertains exclusively to the parents’ private sphere in which the State has no right to interfere. I believe that the proposal for the establishment of a “family factor”, or even better of a “family quotient”, is leading in the right direction, and so deserves support.24

Another line of action concerns all those measures that tend to reduce the endogenous uncertainty currently hanging over families, in particular newer families. Indeed, the creation of new wealth and the consequent improvement in living standards have reduced the uncertainty about the future of individuals and families. The emergence of the global society, however, has resulted in a situation in which the generation of uncertainty appears to be a kind of precondition for further progress. The message conveyed by the syndrome of uncertainty – which has become a true social malaise, particularly among the younger generations – is that of natural or “fabricated” uncertainty, as Anthony Giddens calls it: people are led to believe that a certain measure of self-inflicted uncertainty is necessary in order to improve economic performance. Thus, it should come as no surprise that within such a cultural context, new families tend to be formed at an advanced age, especially when procreation is limited to having just the one child. What to do? I believe that a measure to ensure some form of permanent income for families would prove to be of great help. Under existing conditions, in fact, families are more interested in the prospect of some form of permanent income rather than in any temporary monetary payments.

Today – it is well known – a vast percentage of women want to be free to choose whether to be in the work force and not to stay at home with children. There is also substantial evidence that only a minority of mothers with children three years or younger say they prefer to work full time. The others feel they have to work full time either because their income is needed or because they fear their careers will be side-tracked. A recent phenomenon is the so-called two-income trap: insufficient income has driven both parents into the workforce to try and make ends meet. However, for the less well off the cost of children comes close to cancelling out the increased income. And the flexibility of the family unit is reduced. Thus, in advanced economies with their high level of occupational and geographic mobility, their sharp division of work life and home life, and their transfer of education and old age security services to mega-institutions, the family is modifying its basic functions. As a result, families face increasing difficulties in coping with the dichotomization of modern life, as I will show in the next section.25

6. Policies aimed at establishing a work-family harmony

The “First Report on Family Policy” published by the OECD (Paris, 27 April 2001) already strongly denounced the situation in many countries where women who struggle to establish a work/family balance are basically left to their own fate. According to the Report, the risk is that young people currently aged between twenty and thirty are going to find themselves in considerable difficulty when they decide to have children, after having been “forced” to put off such a moment due to a labour market that is far from family-friendly.

Point 67 of the Gaudium et Spes (1964) submits that: “The entire process of productive work, therefore, must be adapted to the needs of the person and to his/her way of life...”. In other words, the productive process needs to be organized in such a way in order that human beings may flourish and, in particular, that the time dedicated to work, and the time dedicated to the family, may be evenly balanced. Nowadays this is technically and economically possible, provided that both firms and families modify their modus operandi: the former in the sense of superseding the now obsolete Tayloristic model of production; the latter, in the sense of going beyond the model of family life where each member has a strictly specialized role based on the famous Ricardian principle of “comparative advantage” between men and women.

It is a well-known fact that one of the most important issues today is the complex relationship between family life and work. Contemporary public debate sees this as a matter of what is termed work-life balance, that is, the conciliation of time spent working and time spent in the family. This is a rather unfortunate expression that reveals a certain cultural position favouring a subtle form of discrimination. In fact, the term “conciliation” presupposes the existence of a conflict, or rather of a potential trade-off, between these two spheres of life, each of which possesses great value. There is no acceptable reason to believe that work and family require conciliatory practices to be put into place, since while it is true to say that working time is also living time, it is equally true that family life includes specific working activities even though they are not market-based.

For this reason, the term conciliation ought to be replaced by the expression “responsible harmonization”. In ancient Greek, harmony was the buffer that needed to be placed between two metal bodies to prevent them rubbing against each other and producing friction and dangerous sparks. The idea of harmony is thus that of concordia discors – the harmony of discord. Policies regarding the harmonization of family and (paid) work pursue a dual purpose: the first one is to overcome the excessive feminization of family work; the second is to provoke a radical rethinking of the way in which work is organized in the modern-day firm. It cannot be accepted that the means of conciliation proposed up until now (parental leave, part-time working, kindergarten facilities, working-hours accounts, flexible working, company re-entry plans, mentoring, etc.), have to be conceived exclusively with the aim of permitting women with families to adapt as much as possible to the requirements of the working cycle, in order to increase women’s rate of participation in the labour market and thus increase families’ incomes. If these ends, albeit legitimate and desirable, are pursued to the detriment of intra-family and inter-family relations, then the net, long-term result will inevitably be a negative one.26

A recent, weighty study published by OECD affirms that “reconciliation policies include all those measures that extend both family resources (available income and care services) and parental attachment to labor market” (sic!). In truth, the keyword summarizing the philosophy of European policy in this field is adaptability to the purportedly “iron laws” of the labour market. Thus, it is the family that has to adapt itself to the needs of the labour market, and not vice-versa as well. Above all, it is women who have to adapt themselves to the needs of the firm through the implicit acceptance of the trade-off between the possibility of conciliation and the renouncing of any career advancement. I believe a firm stance needs to be taken against this ideology of efficiency as a guiding principle taking precedence over all other values: an ideology which at first appears highly persuasive, owing to a certain appeasing attitude towards the female condition, but whose final outcome would certainly be the extinction, or at the very least the delisting, of the family as the cornerstone of society. It is a fact that the design of family policies, in reality, strongly favours the DINKS (Double Income No Kids) strategy: a real disaster!

Harmonization policies must be conceived at the level of the couple, because the family is not solely the business of women. In practice, this entails a transition from gender mainstreaming – a notion accepted by the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty of the European Union, according to which measures must be designed to create equal opportunities for both sexes – to family mainstreaming, whereby intra-family relations must also be taken into consideration when reorganizing the labour process. An interesting empirical research focusing on the phenomenon of aging population is the one by J. de Henau et al.27 The single most important reason for the aging population is the variability and unpredictability of the fertility rate. Since women choose to take part in paid employment, fertility behaviour will depend on their possibilities to harmonize employment and motherhood. 

Research into the issue of the postponement of maternity has shown there is a certain sequence in the implementation of the fertility-work decision: women first enter the labour market and try to obtain a solid, secure and stable position before they start realizing their fertility plans. Obviously, labour market conditions play an important role in underpinning this decision. The length of postponement as well as the ultimate number of children women decide to have crucially depend on how long it takes them to settle into a secure and stable job, as well as on the employment penalties they anticipate they will have to face when they decide to have children. Needless to say, public policies can influence this sequence a great deal.28

Until recently, the study of fertility relied on two empirical regularities that held both across countries and across families in a given country: a negative relationship between income and fertility and another negative relationship between women’s labour force participation and fertility. The interesting novelty of present times is that these stylized facts are no longer universally held. M. Doepke et al.,29 provide an explanation of these new facts. Four factors help mothers combine a career with a larger family: the availability of public childcare and other supportive family policies; greater contribution from fathers providing childcare; social norms in favour of working mothers; and flexible labour markets.

7. Intertemporal labour flexibility

Today the main obstacle to the formation of new families and, within them, to procreation, is that so many couples find it very difficult to harmonize career advancements and/or professional level at work and the need to dedicate the necessary attention to children. It is thus urgent to advance specific types of time-use policies, bearing in mind that the problem is not so much that of reducing weekly or monthly working hours, but rather the much more complex one of regulating the temporal sequence of paid work. This would not only enable a person to adjust working times to his or her varying needs during the working life cycle but would also reduce the costs of reorganizing the production process in the wake of new employment patterns. In other words, it is not so much a question of reducing working hours, recalling the slogan of the 1980s: “Work less, everyone works”. In fact, today working hours are increasing and discussions by collective bargaining are at a deadlock. Instead, the knotty problem to resolve is the organization of time – of work, training, care, free time – and the subdivision of working time into “work paid at market rates” and work paid in other ways.30

This issue appears in all its complexity in the case of women since their career cycles are asynchronous and out of step with men’s. The Tayloristic model of work organization adopted during the entire 20th century contemplates three distinct cycles, in each of which the worker develops different skills. The career starts in the twenties, when the young worker is required to learn and above all to obey; it speeds up in the thirties, when the functionary, or potential manager, has to put his/her relational skills and organizational capacities to the test; it reaches its peak in the forties, when it is expected that the quasi manager gradually becomes a leader and then flies up to top management in later years. This linear and continual pattern of career advancement, designed for the male breadwinner, has little reference to the woman’s situation because it is during her thirties that she can have children and devote special attention to the family. When women re-enter working life at the beginning of the third cycle, they find the top positions already occupied by men. So, it isn’t so much children who hinder woman’s career advancement – A. Wittenberg Cox made this intelligent and courageous statement in her book Womenomics in business (2011) – but rather an obtuse and archaic organization of work that still refuses to recognise the diversity of the woman’s career cycles with regards to the man’s. In Italy, for example, whereas the woman’s propensity to work drops after the birth of the first child, the man’s increases. The male economic activity rate rises from the 85.6% of those without children to the 97.7% of those who have had a child, whereas the employment rate jumps from 80.5% to 94.6%. For the new mums, instead, the economic activity rate drops from 63% to 50% and that of employment from 57.2% to 48.4%. Not only, but women tend not to re-enter the labour market; only 56% of women with children aged over 15 work in Italy (IFSOL, Rome, 2009).

It is rather hypocritical to continue to blame maternity (and by extension the family) for lack of women’s professional success, when the first cause of gender discrimination is to be found elsewhere, and precisely in the model of productive organizations. For example, there are the socalled mommy tracks, career paths for new mothers offering extension of leave and other types of benefits in exchange for renouncing vertical career paths reserved for men. Is it a coincidence that the reconciliation provisions are addressed almost exclusively to women? This is why I prefer to use the term harmonization, as I said above. Let me quote in this respect Pope Francis: “There are those who believe that many of today’s problems have arisen because of feminine emancipation. This argument, however, is not valid. The equal dignity of men and women makes us rejoice to see old forms of discrimination disappear, and within families there is a growing reciprocity” (Amoris Laetitia, 54).

In essence, the idea of a lifecycle approach to employment themes is underpinned by the possibility of organizing the choice between work time, “family” time and free time over the entire life span of individuals. A growing number of people would like to leave their workplace temporarily to take advantage of the various forms of training the new information technologies offer or to meet family care needs. And if we think about it, enterprises have the same interest: the rate of obsolescence of human capital is now so high that continuous retraining programmes for all personnel are necessary if they want to tackle the challenges of competition in the global era. Not only, but the same enterprises realize it is in their interests to have as employees or collaborators women and men who feel fulfilled at a personal level because they are able to appropriately harmonize work and family.

In many firms there is still a mystique around quantity of work, meaning that an employee is more appreciated the more hours of overtime he or she carries out. And bosses have to continuously invent new tasks to keep their employees after hours, or else think up abstruse timetables. As if to say that the firm, as a total institution, tends to absorb much more time of its managers and employees, independently of reasons linked to the productive activity. Hence the devastating vicious circle: the more hours you spend in the firm, the more you become isolated from your family and social life; vice versa, the more you become isolated from your family and friends, the more you feel at ease inside the company.This is the sad legacy of a work culture entirely based on ubiquitousness in the workplace, that basically rewards those who show they spend more time in the firm and not those who produce the best results.

A policy aimed at achieving an intertemporal flexibility of work signals a profound change in lifestyles and a pronounced cultural advancement: the work experience takes into account, at least to some significant extent, personal need and life plans. Nobody denies that this kind of prospect can contribute concretely to solving the issue of women and, more in general, of the family. During the industrial society era we have been accustomed to viewing the concept of freedom of choice in terms of the choice on the market between the various types of goods and services. The new frontier of freedom, in the post-industrial era, means that the notion of freedom of choice must be progressively extended to the choice of life plans. It is consoling to know that the continual increases in productivity linked to the new technologies – as long as they are pursued intelligently and wisely – make this objective achievable.31 The ultimate target is to make the family flourish as the primary relational good of society.

8. Corporate Family Responsibility

What has to be done to put into practice the proposal described above? Certainly, the intervention of the public authority on both legislative and economic-financial fronts is all important. But this is not enough. The business community has to play its part. This is why today we should speak of corporate family responsibility (CFR) as the advance frontier of corporate social responsibility (CSR). It has long been debated whether enterprises should have obligations of a social and not only legal nature with regards to the society in which they operate. So, the topic of CSR is not a res nova in this current epoch marked by new phenomena such as globalization and the fourth industrial revolution. Ever since humanism during the 15th century, when the modern market economy was born, it has been recognised that the firm incorporates a commitment to the community. CSR, as understood today, is a rule of social conduct that expresses the need, besides the expediency, of developing the public dimension of the enterprise. With CFR, the enterprise has to make commitments also to the family.

Indeed, today’s society no longer considers it enough for the firm to make only profit, albeit continuing to consider it necessary. Milton Friedman, the founder of the Chicago School, in his famous Capitalism and Freedom of 1962, writes: “There is one and only one social responsibility of business: to increase its profit ... The true social duty of business is to achieve the highest possible profit – obviously in an open, correct and competitive market – thus producing wealth and work for all in the most efficient possible manner”. The message is clear: since profit is an indicator of efficiency, the enterprise that achieves profit maximization makes the best possible use of scarce resources, avoiding waste and distortion and thus creates, albeit not intending it, “wealth and work for all”. This is as much as saying that economic value and social value converge.

But we now know that the economic value chain and the social value chain do not always coincide, and when they do it is not taken for granted that the former prevails over the latter. It is the business world that, in the presence of serious law failures, realizes the need for self-regulation to keep market economy structures upright. As long as economies were national, one could entrust the State with the task of compensating for the gaps in the laws or even for their lack. But globalization has denationalised economic relations and, in the absence of global governance, this task has now been handed over to companies. In this precise sense we can say that CFR is an emerging rule of conduct.

What is the aim of CFR? Certainly not mere corporate philanthropy. The difference between the two is that, whereas philanthropic action is always, so to speak, ex-post in that it is performed only after profit has been achieved, CFR is an ex-ante practice in the sense that it appears even before the company has learnt its economic outcome.

A study by S. Bevan and others32 lists the benefits the firm reaps from the introduction of work-family balance tools: less sick leave, greater loyalty of workers to the company, increase in productivity by improving worker’s commitment and concentration, improvement of workers’ psychological conditions. There is even a lower rate of “workaholics”, that is those workers who have a compulsive addition to work (even renouncing without valid reasons to important family, social or recreational activities and always thinking about the workplace, even when they have left it). Workaholics represent a drawback rather than a benefit for companies, because they increase the probability of errors, meaning that the workplace is endangered, bad relations are initiated with work colleagues while the work environment becomes unbearable with frequent rifts.33

There is surprising creativity in the measures that companies put into practice to foster the work-family balance. They not only involve flexible hours (including part-time, job-sharing, remote work, parental leave or corporate nurseries). They can also include baby sitting on-call, when the child suddenly has to stay home (a very popular service in Nordic countries) and be brought to the office. There are also important services of integrative healthcare, scholarships and other aids for children’s education, vouchers or other contribution for care of the elderly, without forgetting corporate agreements with energy suppliers, restaurants, co-ops and much else, now formalized as supplements to national labour contracts.34

9. In lieu of a conclusion

In two essays written some time ago, that were hotly debated in the English-speaking world – one by David Popenoe35 and the other by Judith Stacey36 – a strong line of argument was advanced and defended. Firstly, the Authors provided evidence that in all modern societies, the family is in decline in five specific senses: compared to the past, it was less oriented towards collective aims; it had virtually ceased to perform traditional functions such as procreation, the control of sexuality, and the socialization of young people; it had surrendered power to other institutions such as the State, the School and the Church; it had lost its previous stability; it had increased unstable bonds with its individual members. The conclusion was that it was obvious that the modern family (stable marriage, a husband who does a paid job and a wife who works in the home) was being replaced by a series of different, often precarious, domestic arrangements that characterize the post-modern family: single mothers, extended families, couples living together, and homosexual couples (one American study reported the presence of 54 different types of family in today’s USA!). The post-modern family would thus be suited to meeting the requirements of post-modern society and of post-feminism. “The family is not here to stay. Nor should we wish it were. On the contrary, I believe that all democratic people ... should work to hasten its demise. The ‘family’ distorts and devalues a rich variety of kinship stories ...” (sic!) (J. Stacey).

Fortunately, reality has revealed the theoretical implausibility and practical groundlessness of such a thesis. As I wrote in Zamagni (2018), clearly, the two authors have mistaken the finale of an act for the end of the play, and have applauded too early. It is not that statistics fail to display the worrying signs of the family’s ongoing crisis; however, statistics as such lend no support whatsoever to the aforementioned argument. It would be a logical non sequitur to conclude that the family is doomed to disappear. Firstly, because the family has always been in a state of crisis. As a living entity, the family transforms itself and evolves continually; and each transformation is accompanied by some form of crisis – which in Greek means passage or transition, in fact. However, this does not imply that the family is finished or done for, as the above passage clearly suggests. At the end of last century, it was common to come across the metaphor of “Harlequin’s costume”, indicating that there is no one family, but a series of different families, and everyone should be free to choose the type of family one prefers (while others opted for the metaphor, taken from F. Mauriac, of the family as a “vipers’ tangle”). However, different models of family existed in the past as well, and it cannot be held that the one-parent family is exclusively a modern-day phenomenon. It is true, on the contrary, that at the start of this new millennium several signs have emerged of a renewed interest in the question of the family; one would have to be wearing ideological blinkers not to realize this.

As a seminarium civitatis (seedbed of the city) – Cicero preferred the expression seminarium rei publicae – the family can never forget that its mission includes that of rendering the State more a civitas (and less a polis): and since it is civitas that generates civilitas, one can appreciate why there is a desperate need for the family today. However, the family needs to make an extra effort to cultivate what the Indian anthropologist Arijun Appadurai has called the capability to aspire. It is this capability that calls upon people to participate in the construction of social and symbolic representations that shape the future and people’s life projects. In this regard, it is proper to remind ourselves that to establish a consensus it is not the agreement (or even the contract) itself that counts as much as the participation of those who bring it about. This means that consensus is not only based on reason, but also on the personal commitment of the people involved. In fact, consensus (cum-sensus) is a typically communitarian phenomenon. Communities are not only traditions of moral reflection. They are also, and perhaps mainly, live narrative traditions which encourage the spreading of the principle of reciprocity. In the Apology of Socrates, Plato writes that, not long before dying, Socrates went to his accusers and imparted this message: I know that I am right, but only now I realize that I have not being able to convince you since we did not live together. Which means that in order to be able to convince is necessary to live together. This is what ultimately characterizes family life. 

1 Decree on the Apostolate of Laity, 503. 
2 Towards the Synod of 1980, 127. Italics added. 
3 S. Zamagni, “The family and Economic Theorizing”, in A. Argandona (ed.), The Home, E. Elgar, Cheltenhan, 2018.
4 S. Walby, Theorizing Patriarchy, New York, Norton, 1990. 
5 A Secular Age, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2009.
6 Riconoscere la famiglia, Milan, San Paolo, 2007 and Perchè la famiglia? Le risposte della sociologia relazionale, Siena, Cantagalli, 2008.
7 See S. Zamagni, id.
8 F. Viola, Forme della cooperazione, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2006. 9 Politics, Book 1, part 2.
10 “Shared cooperative activity”, in id. Faces of Intentions, Cambridge, CUP, 1999. 
11 These are the positive effects on the whole community deriving from the action of an individual and which are not reckoned because, as they are not transiting through the market, they are non-evaluated in terms of price.
12 R. Putnam, Our kids, New York, Simon and Schuster, 2015.
13 See the interesting work by H. Fehr and F. Kindermann, “The insurance role of the family”, CESifo, Sept. 2021.
14 J. Heckman et al., “Understanding the Mechanisms through which an Influential Early Childhood Program Boosted Adult Outcomes”, American Economic Review, 103, 2013.
15 Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, Princeton University Press, 1994.
16 See M. Doepke, M. Tertilt, “Families in Macroeconomics”, NBER, WP 22068, March 2021.
17 A treatise on the family, Cambridge Mass., Harvard University Press, 1973, orig. ed. 1960.
18 A first radical critique of Becker’s theory is that of Barbara Bergmann, Becker’s Theory of the Family: Preposterous Conclusions, New York, Norton, 1995.
19 See M. Browing et al., Economics of the Family, Cambridge, CUP, 2014. 
20 “Narratives and the economics of the family”, Warwick Economics Research Papers, n. 1299, August 2020.
21 See R. Grotti, “Household structure, its changes and the distribution of incomes. A comparison across welfare regimes”, Stato e Mercato, 118, 2020. 
22 See H. Lingren, Creating sustainable families, Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1995. 
23 Unpublished political works, edited by G.B. Nicola, Milan, Tencani, 1923, p. 485.
24 C. Olivetti, B. Petrangolo, “The economic consequences of family policies: lessons from a century of legislation in high-income countries”, NBER, 23051, Jan. 2017.
25 See C. Wilber, Was the Good Samaritan a Bad Economist?, New York, 2021.
26 See L. Fox et al., “Time for children: trends in the employment patterns of parents: 1967-2009”, NBER WP 17135, June 2011, who document trends in parental employment patterns in OECD countries, from the perspective of children and show what underlies these trends. The lives of children have altered in fundamental ways during the last fifty years.
27 “The competitive effectiveness of public policies to fight motherhood-induced employment penalties and decreasing fertility”, Dept. of Applied Economics, Université Libre de Bruxelles, 2019. 
28 P. Donati, “The State and the Family in a Subsidiary Society”, PASS, Vatican City, 2008.
29 The Economics of fertility: a new era, NBER WP 29948, April 2022. 
30 L. Hassani Nezhad, “Mothers at work: how mandating paid maternity leave affects employment, earnings and fertility”, IZA DP14605, July 2021. 
31 See the forthcoming Report by the IMF, She-Cession: The Employment Penalty of Taking Care ofYoung Children, 2022. 
32 Family-friendly employment: the business case, Institute for Employment Studies, 1999.
33 For a more in-depth analysis, see G. Faldella, Corporate family responsibility and work-family balance, Milano, Angeli, 2008. 
34 A very useful read in this regard is the book by Claudia Goldin, Career and family. Women’s century-long journey towards equity, Princeton, PUP, 2021.
35 Disturbing the nest: family change and decline in modern societies, New York, De Gruyter, 1989.
36 Brave new families, New York, Basic Books, 1990.