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Were American Parents Really Selfish? Child Labour in the 19th Century

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  • Bhaskar, Venkataraman
  • Gupta, Bishnupriya

Abstract

Using the US Commissioner of Labor Survey of 1890, we examine household decisions and parental altruism vis-a-vis their children. Contrary to Parsons and Goldin (1989), we find that parental location choices were dictated by constraints rather than the desire to exploit child labour opportunities. We also find signfiicant income effects on child labour supply, indicating that rising affluence played an important part in the secular decline of child labour. We also find that the effects of childrens' income on their own consumption are weak, once child labour is controlled for.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 5675.

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Date of creation: May 2006
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5675

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Keywords: child labour; parental altruism;

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  1. Parsons, Donald O & Goldin, Claudia, 1989. "Parental Altruism and Self-Interest: Child Labor among Late Nineteenth-Century American Families," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 27(4), pages 637-59, October.
  2. Beegle, Kathleen & Dehejia, Rajeev H. & Gatti, Roberta, 2006. "Child labor and agricultural shocks," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 80-96, October.
  3. Edmonds, Eric V., 2006. "Child labor and schooling responses to anticipated income in South Africa," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 386-414, December.
  4. Ray, R., 1998. "Analysis of Child Labour in Peru and Pakistan: a Comparative Study," Papers 1998-05, Tasmania - Department of Economics.
  5. Moehling, Carolyn M., 1999. "State Child Labor Laws and the Decline of Child Labor," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 72-106, January.
  6. Jean-Marie Baland & James A. Robinson, 2000. "Is Child Labor Inefficient?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(4), pages 663-679, August.
  7. Basu, Kaushik & Van, Pham Hoang, 1998. "The Economics of Child Labor," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 412-27, June.
  8. Mincer, Jacob, 1978. "Family Migration Decisions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(5), pages 749-73, October.
  9. Moehling, Carolyn M., 2005. ": Youth Employment and Household Decision Making in the Early Twentieth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 65(02), pages 414-438, June.
  10. Bliss, Christopher & Stern, Nicholas, 1978. "Productivity, wages and nutrition : Part I: the theory," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(4), pages 331-362, December.
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