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Gary Becker’s economics of population: reproduction and neoliberal biopolitics

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jemima Repo



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


This article argues that the work of Chicago School economist Gary Becker’s theory of fertility underpins contemporary rationalities of global population governance. Drawing on feminist critiques of biopolitics, the article proposes reproduction as a missing link that ties Becker’s homo economicus to the aggregate question of population. It argues that Becker’s work challenged macroeconomic theories of fertility by figuring reproduction, and hence population patterns, as governed by the personal utility-maximising decisions of individuals. It further examines how his approach to fertility inaugurated reproductive decision-making as a regulatory node of population quality, one also tied to a particular sex, race, and class politics. Finally, the article briefly analyses the relationship between Becker’s contribution and today’s focus on women’s reproductive and productive decision-making in population governance in the context of development.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Repo J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Economy and Society

Year: 2018

Volume: 47

Issue: 2

Pages: 234-256

Print publication date: 01/06/2018

Online publication date: 16/07/2018

Acceptance date: 11/05/2018

Date deposited: 17/05/2018

ISSN (print): 0308-5147

ISSN (electronic): 1469-5766

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/03085147.2018.1484052


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