Evolving Households

Evolving Households

The Imprint of Technology on Life

By Jeremy Greenwood

The transformative effect of technological change on households and culture, seen from a macroeconomic perspective through simple economic models.





The transformative effect of technological change on households and culture, seen from a macroeconomic perspective through simple economic models.

In Evolving Households, Jeremy Greenwood argues that technological progress has had as significant an effect on households as it had on industry. Taking a macroeconomic perspective, Greenwood develops simple economic models to study such phenomena as the rise in married female labor force participation, changes in fertility rates, the decline in marriage, and increased longevity. These trends represent a dramatic transformation in everyday life, and they were made possible by advancements in technology. Greenwood also addresses how technological progress can cause social change.

Greenwood shows, for example, how electricity and labor-saving appliances freed women from full-time household drudgery and enabled them to enter the labor market. He explains that fertility dropped when higher wages increased the opportunity cost of having children; he attributes the post–World War II baby boom to a combination of labor-saving household technology and advances in obstetrics and pediatrics. Marriage rates declined when single households became more economically feasible; people could be more discriminating in their choice of a mate. Technological progress also affects social and cultural norms. Innovation in contraception ushered in a sexual revolution. Labor-saving technological progress at home, together with mechanization in industry that led to an increase in the value of brain relative to brawn for jobs, fostered the advancement of women's rights in the workplace. Finally, Greenwood attributes increased longevity to advances in medical technology and rising living standards, and he examines healthcare spending, the development of new drugs, and the growing portion of life now spent in retirement.


$60.00 X ISBN: 9780262039239 336 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 71 figures


  • The household sector is important and is experiencing dramatic change. This book is useful for both undergraduate and graduate teaching. It raises research questions to be resolved. It shows undergraduates how to use economic reasoning in household management.

    Edward C. Prescott

    Regents Professor of Economics, Arizona State University; 2004 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences

  • This fine book improves both our theories and our measurements of fundamental components of economics including labor supply, choices about education and human capital, the division of work and leisure among family members, and how we should measure national product in ways that can provide information about individual and social welfare.

    Thomas J. Sargent

    Professor of Economics, New York University; Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution; 2011 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences

  • In this new monograph Jeremy Greenwood has constructed elegant theoretical models incorporating family models featuring men and women making hard choices about who in the family does what. Over the past decade, he has calibrated these models to a century of technological innovations that have made it easier for women to enter the labor force. He has put all these pieces—evidence and economic logic—together and it worked! This is applied economic theory at its best.

    Robert E. Lucas, Jr.

    The John Dewey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Economics and the College, University of Chicago; 1995 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences

  • Evolving Households is a superb contribution. At every step of the way, Greenwood uses a uniquely comprehensive combination of facts and theory to provide important insights about the evolution of families and social change. The book is a precious resource for anybody—scholars, educators, and students—who are actively engaged in family economics.

    Claudia Olivetti

    Professor of Economics, Boston College