Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children

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Princeton University Press, Aug 28, 1994 - Social Science - 277 pages
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In this landmark book, sociologist Viviana Zelizer traces the emergence of the modern child, at once economically "useless" and emotionally "priceless," from the late 1800s to the 1930s. Having established laws removing 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, for example, in the legal justification of children's life insurance policies and in large damages awarded by courts to their parents in the event of death. A vivid account of changing attitudes toward children, this book dramatically illustrates the limits of economic views of life that ignore the pervasive role of social, cultural, emotional, and moral factors in our marketplace world.


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An excellent read as to the Court's and, the people's, revolving and, evolving conception and perception as to worth...Worth cannot be determined in dollars. Rather, the 'worth of a person,' as per sentimental feeling is the Court affirmed...RLB

Selected pages


From Mobs to Memorials The Sacralization of Child Life
From Useful to Useless Moral Conflict Over Child Labor
From Child Labor to Child Work Redefining the Economic World of Children
From a Proper Burial to a Proper Education The Case of Childrens Insurance
From Wrongful Death to Wrongful Birth The Changing Legal Evaluation of Children
From Baby Farms to Black Market Babies The Changing Market for Children
From Useful to Useless and Back to Useful? Emerging Pattern in the Valuation of Children

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About the author (1994)

Viviana A. Zelizer is Professor of Sociology at Princeton University. She is the author of Morals and Markets: The Development in Life Insurance in the United States (Columbia).

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