Because this is an Oster book, there’s data scattered everywhere ... It’s all presented in the breezy, skeptical style that’s made Oster’s work a must-read for parents ... But because the vast majority of this must have been written pre-pandemic, it reads kind of like an out-of-date time capsule ... For the most part, Oster’s data-driven findings indicate that there is no universal right way to do things. So it’s up to parents to figure out the best path for them and their kids. That message is one we can all embrace, even if Oster’s workbook sheets might not be the right fit for the company you keep.
If Oster were to analyze her own work here, she’d pick it apart, weighing the evidence in a quest for smooth, causational proof ... Most of the existing research, frustratingly, focuses on test scores and obesity as measures of kids’ well-being. Indeed, Oster is forced by her own methodology to admit, time and again, that there is no clear answer beyond the obvious ... Read The Family Firm in the same way Oster advises you to read the research: Take what applies to your life, consider the source and skip the rest.
Given the uncertainty over everything from climate to the future jobs market to the state of democracy, parents fond of organization may well love this kind of scaffolding ... Whereas Oster’s earlier books were about cutting through misconceptions and making expectant parents’ lives easier, The Family Firm adds a burden ... A framework based on your 'family mission' and rooted in the data is one that aims to optimize individual parental decisions, just as a firm will always prioritize its own bottom line over the community good. Academic outcomes, lifetime earnings, happiness—these are a function of privilege, it turns out, regardless of your decision-making skills ... You can do your best to make the best possible decisions but shouldn’t forget why it all feels so intense: The game is unfair.