Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children
a book by Viviana A. Zelizer
(our site's book review)
In this fairly unique book, sociologist Viviana Zelizer traces the evolution of the modern child, at once economically "useless" and emotionally "priceless." She covers the period from the late 1800s to the 1930s. Having established laws that removed many children from the marketplace, turn-of-the-century America was discovering new, sentimental criteria to determine a child's monetary worth. The heightened emotional status of children resulted in the legal justification of children's life insurance policies and in large damages awarded by American courts to their parents in the event of death. A dramatic account of the changing attitudes toward children, this book strongly illustrates the limitations of economic perspectives of life that ignore the vital role of social, cultural, emotional, and moral factors in our marketplace-centered world. Zelizer also looks at the critical roles of both child labor and child work in the formation of the modern American child.