NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

NBER Working Papers by Alejandrina Salcedo

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Working Papers

November 2009Families as Roommates: Changes in U.S. Household Size from 1850 to 2000
with Todd Schoellman, Michèle Tertilt: w15477
Living arrangements have changed enormously over the last two centuries. While the average American today lives in a household of only three people, in 1850 household size was twice that figure. Further, both the number of children and the number of adults in a household have fallen dramatically. We develop a simple theory of household size where living with others is beneficial solely because the costs of household public goods can be shared. In other words, we abstract from intra-family relations and focus on households as collections of roommates. The model's mechanism is that rising income leads to a falling expenditure share on household public goods, which endogenously makes household formation less beneficial and privacy more attractive. To assess the magnitude of this mechanism, we...

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