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Italian Children at Work, 1881-1961

Author

Listed:
  • Gianni Toniolo

    (Duke University and CEPR)

  • Giovanni Vecchi

    () (University of Rome "Tor Vergata")

Abstract

This paper quantifies the extent and the main characteristics of child work in Italy during the years 1881-1961. From population censuses, we created a new database of the economically active population aged 10-14 by gender, region, and economic sector. We find that child work incidence declined sharply over time, from 64.3 percent in 1881 to 3.6 percent in 1961. This pattern holds true both nationally and within regions. The new body of evidence we provide casts serious doubts on international comparisons which portray post-war Italy as a country with peculiarly high employment rates for children. Our findings also challenge the view that the initial phases of industrialization had a negative impact on the living standards of Italian children. We show that, in the case of Italy, industrialization coincided with a decline in the employment of children. Our analysis of the determinants of child work suggests that (i) changes in the allocation of total active population among productive sectors explain only a small amount of changes in the employment of children; (ii) changes in labor and compulsory-schooling legislation indicates that the impact of institutions on child labor was modest until the late 1930s. Overall, the increasing GDP per head was probably the main, but not the only, driving force behind declining child work incidence.

Suggested Citation

  • Gianni Toniolo & Giovanni Vecchi, 2007. "Italian Children at Work, 1881-1961," Giornale degli Economisti, GDE (Giornale degli Economisti e Annali di Economia), Bocconi University, vol. 66(3), pages 401-427, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:gde:journl:gde_v66_n3_p401-427
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Dirk Krueger & Jessica Tjornhom Donohue, 2005. "On The Distributional Consequences Of Child Labor Legislation," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 46(3), pages 785-815, August.
    4. Ranjan, Priya, 2001. "Credit constraints and the phenomenon of child labor," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 81-102, February.
    5. Muller, Adrian, 2006. "Clarifying Poverty Decomposition," Working Papers in Economics 217, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics, revised 17 Nov 2008.
    6. Matthias Doepke & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2005. "The Macroeconomics of Child Labor Regulation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1492-1524, December.
    7. 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.
    8. Vecchi, Giovanni & Coppola, Michela, 2006. "Nutrition and growth in Italy, 1861-1911: What macroeconomic data hide," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 438-464, July.
    9. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Andrea Brandolini & Giovanni Vecchi, 2011. "The Well-Being of Italians: A Comparative Historical Approach," Quaderni di storia economica (Economic History Working Papers) 19, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    child labor; child work; living standards; industrialization; modern economic growth; Italy: Giornale degli Economisti e Annali di Economia;

    JEL classification:

    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy
    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty

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