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In this capstone work, Folbre, long a critic of the neoclassical economics approach to the family, adumbrates arguments regarding what is wrong with how economists and governments conceptualize and measure the workings of the family, using children as her fulcrum. Children reside at the intersection of family and the state, the marketplace, and the past and future. Benefit-cost accounting of children is woefully inadequate, and society lacks consensus regarding who actually bears costs; what impacts private and public expenditures have on child outcomes; what optimal expenditures might be; and what cost-benefit apportionment rubric stakeholders should employ. Folbre systematically addresses questions surrounding the value of children. Although some answers will not surprise, her unpacking of time, goods, and federal and state program costs and benefits both informs and provokes new thinking. The critical question is, who should pay for kids? The payees and benefit claimants are parents, earlier and subsequent familial generations, children themselves, and society via its government. What should hold these disparate groups together, Folbre implores, is the notion of moral obligation. Would that her vision becomes reality.
— D. J. Conger