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Protection through Proof of Age. Birth Registration and Child Labor in Early 20th Century USA

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  • Sonja Fagernäs

    ()
    (Department of Economics, University of Sussex)

Abstract

A birth certificate establishes a child's legal identity and is the sole official proof of a child's age. However, quantitative estimates on the economic significance of birth registration are lacking. Birth registration laws were enacted by the majority of U.S. states in late 19th and early 20th centuries. Controlling for state of birth and cohort effects, the differential timing of birth registration laws across US states is used to identify whether birth registration changed the effectiveness of child labor legislation between 1910 and 1930. The incidence of child labor declined significantly in the early 20th century. The study finds that if a birth registration law had been enacted by the time a child was born, the effectiveness of minimum working age legislation in prohibiting under-aged employment more than doubled. This effect was stronger for children residing in non-agricultural areas.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Sussex in its series Working Paper Series with number 2311.

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Date of creation: Jun 2011
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Handle: RePEc:sus:susewp:2311

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Keywords: Birth registration; Child Labor; Law and Economics; Economic history; USA;

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  1. Joshua D. Angrist & Alan B. Krueger, 1990. "Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?," NBER Working Papers 3572, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Margo, Robert A. & Aldrich Finegan, T., 1996. "Compulsory schooling legislation and school attendance in turn-of-the century America: A 'natural experiment' approach," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 103-110, October.
  3. Kaushik Basu, 2004. "Child labor and the Law: Notes on Possible Pathologies," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2052, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  4. Eric V. Edmonds & Nina Pavcnik, 2005. "Child Labor in the Global Economy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 199-220, Winter.
  5. Marco Manacorda, 2003. "Child Labor and the Labor Supply of Other Household Members: Evidence from 1920 America," CEP Discussion Papers dp0590, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  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. Ai, Chunrong & Norton, Edward C., 2003. "Interaction terms in logit and probit models," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 123-129, July.
  8. 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.
  9. Goldin, Claudia, 1979. "Household and market production of families in a late nineteenth century American city," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 111-131, April.
  10. Lleras-Muney, Adriana, 2002. "Were Compulsory Attendance and Child Labor Laws Effective? An Analysis from 1915 to 1939," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(2), pages 401-35, October.
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