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Economic LivesHow Culture Shapes the Economy$
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Viviana A. Zelizer

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780691139364

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691139364.001.0001

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The Price and Value of Children

The Price and Value of Children

The Case of Children’s Insurance in the United States

(p.40) 2 The Price and Value of Children
Economic Lives

Viviana A. Zelizer

Princeton University Press

This chapter considers the development of children's insurance. It argues that the removal of children from the “cash nexus” at the turn of the past century was part of a cultural process of sacralization of children's lives. It uses the term “sacralization” in the sense of objects being invested with moral and religious meaning. While in the nineteenth century the market value of children was culturally acceptable, the new normative ideal of the child as an exclusively emotional and moral asset precluded instrumental or fiscal considerations. The primacy of children's qualitative, intrinsic value was affirmed by forsaking any immediate quantitative money value. The chapter analyzes historical data on the controversial development of children's insurance between 1875 and the early decades of the twentieth century as a specific measure of the radical transformation in the cultural meaning of childhood.

Keywords:   life insurance, child insurance market, insurance policies, cultural meaning, sacralization

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