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The Decline of Child Labor in the U.S. Fruit and Vegetable Canning Industry: Law or Economics?

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  • Brown, Martin
  • Christiansen, Jens
  • Philips, Peter

Abstract

Child labor in the U.S. economy declined significantly between 1880 and 1920. This case study of the fruit and vegetable canning industry examines variations in laws, technology, and income across states and time to assess the relative importance of legal and economic factors in reducing the employment of children. The authors find that economic factors, especially a technologically driven shift toward a greater demand for adult labor, were relatively more important. While economic development was often a precondition for legal restrictions on child labor, compulsory schooling and child labor laws restricted the employment of children in technologically backward canneries.

Suggested Citation

  • Brown, Martin & Christiansen, Jens & Philips, Peter, 1992. "The Decline of Child Labor in the U.S. Fruit and Vegetable Canning Industry: Law or Economics?," Business History Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(4), pages 723-770, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:buhirw:v:66:y:1992:i:04:p:723-770_06
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Eric V. Edmonds, 2005. "Does Child Labor Decline with Improving Economic Status?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(1).
    2. repec:wsi:wschap:9789812798091_0017 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Sonja Fagernäs, 2011. "Protection through Proof of Age. Birth Registration and Child Labor in Early 20th Century USA," Working Paper Series 2311, Department of Economics, University of Sussex Business School.
    4. Drusilla K. Brown & Alan V. Deardorff & Robert M Stern, 2001. "Child Labor: Theory, Evidence, and Policy," Working Papers 474, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
    5. Drusilla K. Brown & Alan V. Deardorff & Robert M. Stern, 2009. "The Effects of Multinational Production on Wages and Working Conditions in Developing Countries," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: Globalization And International Trade Policies, chapter 17, pages 623-687, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    6. 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.
    7. Kaushik Basu, 1999. "Child Labor: Cause, Consequence, and Cure, with Remarks on International Labor Standards," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(3), pages 1083-1119, September.
    8. Awan, Masood Sarwar & Waqas, Muhammad & Aslam, Muhammad Amir, 2011. "Why do Parents Make their Children Work? Evidence from Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey," MPRA Paper 31830, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Douglas L. Kruse & Douglas Mahony, 2000. "Illegal Child Labor in the United States: Prevalence and Characteristics," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 54(1), pages 17-40, October.
    10. Fagernäs, Sonja, 2014. "Papers, please! The effect of birth registration on child labor and education in early 20th century USA," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 63-92.

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