The central premise of Becker's writings is that rational economic
choices, based on self-interest, govern most aspects of human behaviour,
not just the purchasing and investment decisions traditionally regarded
as economic behaviour. In his dissertation, published in 1957 as The
Economics of Discrimination, he examined race discrimination in labour
markets, concluding that it has costs for both the victim and the perpetrator.
In Human Capital (1964) he argued that an individual's investment in
education and training is analogous to a company's investment in new
machinery or equipment. In studies such as the 1981 A Treatise on the
Family, Becker analyzed the household as a sort of factory, producing
goods and services such as meals, shelter, and child care. Applying
theories of production to household behaviour, he was able to make predictions
about family size, divorce, and the role of women in the workplace.
Subsequent work focused on such subjects as criminal behaviour and addiction.
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