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Office Hours

One of America’s great economic thinkers: Gary Becker, dies at 83

Every once in a while Office Hours will call attention to the passing of someone whose significance goes way above-average.

That is why we're posting a short note on the recent death of economist-sociologist Gary Becker, 83, who died this week in Chicago.

He won the Nobel Prize in economics, and numerous other awards.

In a recent NYTimes story, the Times calls attention to some of Becker's important studies of everyday life. He wrote about the impact of discrimination on the economy and the intricate interplay of motives taking place within the family.

An excerpt from that article:

Professor Becker’s “A Treatise on the Family” (1981) studied people’s interactions in such private areas as choosing a spouse, divorce, deciding how many children to have and whether to leave money to them rather than spend it in retirement.

Among many other things, he sought to explain why family size has tended to decline as income rises, finding that wealthier parents were choosing to invest more in quality at the expense of quantity. Women’s time became more valuable as they swelled the work force and earned more money, he found.

One of the best-known elements of the book was the “rotten kid” theorem. “Children have an incentive to act altruistically toward each other as their parents want them to, even if children are really egotistical,” he wrote.

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The Spokesman-Review business team follows economic development in Spokane and the Inland Northwest.

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John Stucke John Stucke is a deputy city editor who helps build local news coverage and writes about health care, bankruptcy and rural affairs.

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Alison Boggs (@alisonboggs) Online Producer Alison Boggs posts and manages content on and its social networking accounts.

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Scott Maben Scott Maben is a Deputy City Editor who covers North Idaho news and higher education.

Addy Hatch is the city editor, and formerly was business editor.

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