The Family Business

By Nick Schulz, NCF Scholar

Brad Wilcox and Kathryn Sharpe of the University of Virginia have taken a fascinating fresh look at sectors of the economy most influenced by marriage and fertility. As part of an important new report from the Social Trends Institute – “The Sustainabile Demographic Dividend: What Do Marriage and Fertility Have to Do With the Economy?” — Wilcox and Sharpe point out that “companies as varied as Home Depot (home maintenance), Johnson & Johnson (healthcare), Kellogg (cereal), Kroger (groceries), Mars (sweets), Mattel (toys), Northwestern Mutual (life insurance), Procter & Gamble (household products), UnitedHealth (health insurance), and Target (general merchandise) are probably more likely to profit when men and women marry and have children.”

They find that in the United States “married parents (age 18-50) spend markedly more money—on a household and a per-capita basis—on child care, food at home, healthcare, home maintenance, household products and services, life/personal insurance, and pets and toys, compared to single, childless adults of the same age.”

Wilcox and Sharpe are at the leading edge of a promising line of academic research investigating the consequences for the business community of changing family dynamics and major demographic trends. (For example, NCF Fellow Ted Fishman is doing path-breaking work on the economic implications of a graying society.)

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