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Does Work Impede Child Learning? The Case of Senegal


  • Christelle Dumas


In African countries, children often combine school and work. This article exploits Senegalese panel data to assess the relationship between child labor and learning, measured by test scores. Test scores from the beginning of primary school control for children's cognitive abilities, and children's past time allocation decisions are instrumented by changes in rainfall and distance to primary school. Some of the tests were administered verbally in order to pick up effects for children who had only attended school very briefly. I do not find that children's past participation in economic activities is associated with lower adolescent cognitive achievement, but rather that it is associated with higher oral mathematics scores. This association is stronger when I control for years of schooling, which suggests that work does displace schooling but does allow children to acquire some skills.

Suggested Citation

  • Christelle Dumas, 2012. "Does Work Impede Child Learning? The Case of Senegal," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60(4), pages 773-793.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:ecdecc:doi:10.1086/665603

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Heady, Christopher, 2003. "The Effect of Child Labor on Learning Achievement," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 385-398, February.
    2. Christelle Dumas & Sylvie Lambert, 2011. "Educational Achievement and Socio-economic Background: Causality and Mechanisms in Senegal," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 20(1), pages 1-26, January.
    3. Becker, Gary S & Tomes, Nigel, 1976. "Child Endowments and the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(4), pages 143-162, August.
    4. Kathleen Beegle & Rajeev Dehejia & Roberta Gatti, 2009. "Why Should We Care About Child Labor?: The Education, Labor Market, and Health Consequences of Child Labor," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(4).
    5. John H. Tyler, 2003. "Using State Child Labor Laws to Identify the Effect of School-Year Work on High School Achievement," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 353-380, April.
    6. Ralph Stinebrickner & Todd R. Stinebrickner, 2003. "Working during School and Academic Performance," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 449-472, April.
    7. Emerson, Patrick M. & Souza, André Portela, 2008. "Birth Order, Child Labor, and School Attendance in Brazil," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(9), pages 1647-1664, September.
    8. Hideo Akabayashi & George Psacharopoulos, 1999. "The trade-off between child labour and human capital formation: A Tanzanian case study," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(5), pages 120-140.
    9. Canals-Cerda, Jose & Ridao-Cano, Cristobal, 2004. "The dynamics of school and work in rural Bangladesh," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3330, The World Bank.
    10. John Shea, 1997. "Instrument Relevance in Multivariate Linear Models: A Simple Measure," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 79(2), pages 348-352, May.
    11. Hanushek, Eric, 1971. "Teacher Characteristics and Gains in Student Achievement: Estimation Using Micro Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(2), pages 280-288, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Patrick M. Emerson & Vladimir Ponczek & André Portela Souza, 2017. "Child Labor and Learning," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65(2), pages 265-296.
    2. Sim, Armand & Suryadarma, Daniel & Suryahadi, Asep, 2017. "The Consequences of Child Market Work on the Growth of Human Capital," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 144-155.
    3. Claus Pörtner, 2016. "Effects of parental absence on child labor and school attendance in the Philippines," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 103-130, March.
    4. Kuepie, Mathias & Misangumukini, Nicaise, 2012. "Environnements économique et éducatif des ménages et difficultés scolaires des enfants au Mali," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 88(4), pages 403-428, Décembre.
    5. Mauricio Moura & Rodrigo Bueno, 2014. "The Effect of Land Title on Child Labor Supply: Empirical Evidence from Brazil," Research in Labor Economics,in: Factors Affecting Worker Well-being: The Impact of Change in the Labor Market, volume 40, pages 195-222 Emerald Publishing Ltd.
    6. BOUARÉ Issa & KUEPIE Mathias & MISANGUMUKINI Nicaise, 2010. "Environnements économique et éducatif des ménages et échec scolaire des enfants au Mali," LISER Working Paper Series 2010-02, LISER.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development


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