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ECON351 Special Topic: Economics of Households and Wellbeing

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The economics of household decision-making about marriage, divorce, fertility and labour market participation, the limitations of GDP as a measure of wellbeing, and measures of human, social and natural capital.

New Zealand has experienced a rapid change in family structures over the last decade towards greater diversity in families, including single parenthood, parents who do not live with their children but are still involved, etc. Economic reasoning can help explain the dramatic changes that have occurred, both in New Zealand and around the world by analysing household decisions related to marriage and cohabitation, divorce, labour market participation of women, and childbearing.

These decisions have an important impact on income and the overall wellbeing of the society, which will be the subject of the latter part of the course. New Zealand's Wellbeing Budget in 2019 has been internationally recognised as part of the growing global awareness of the different dimensions of wellbeing and the need to develop meaningful measures other than Gross Domestic Product. The Wellbeing Budget draws on the Government's Living Standards Framework, which focuses on people's capabilities to live the life they value and have reasons to value, based on Sen's 'capabilities approach'. Overall, the Economics of Households and Wellbeing will provide graduates with the skills to comprehend and critically assess how households make economic choices and the changes in societal structures and wellbeing, which allows for informed discourse and policy making.

Paper title Special Topic: Economics of Households and Wellbeing
Paper code ECON351
Subject Economics
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Semester 2 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $887.55
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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ECON 201 or ECON 271
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Commerce, Science

Teaching staff

Dr Neha Agarwal
Dr Viktoria Kahui


Required: Saul D. Hoffman and Susan Averett (2015) Women and the Economy: Family, Work and Pay, 3rd edition, Macmillan International Higher Education (ISBN 9781137477033).

Other key readings include: NZ Treasury reports (accessible online) and chapters from a selection of other books (available via e-Reserve).

Graduate Attributes Emphasised

Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Communication, Critical thinking, Research, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.

Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete the paper will have developed a range of subject-specific knowledge and skills. They will be able to

  • Discuss the economic theory of marriage, the reasons and consequences of divorce, the relationship between marriage and the relative earnings of men and women
  • Discuss the economic explanations for the recent trends in fertility
  • Describe and explain the recent trend in women’s labour market participation
  • Explain the gender gap in earnings in a variety of settings
  • Discuss the strength and weaknesses of GDP as a measure of wellbeing
  • Discuss Sen's capabilities approach
  • Describe and analyse the Solow growth model
  • Describe the components of human, social and natural capital

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Semester 2

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Monday 13:00-13:50 28-34, 36-41
Wednesday 13:00-13:50 28-34, 36-41
Thursday 13:00-13:50 28-34, 36-41