IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Global Child Labor Problem: What Do We Know and What Can We Do?


  • Basu, Kaushik

    (Cornell U)

  • Tzannatos, Zafiris


The problem of child labor has gone beyond being viewed as a matter of regional and intra-national concern to one of international debate and possible global 'persuasion' and policy intervention. It is argued in this paper that, in crafting policy for mitigating this enormous problem of our times, it is important to acquire a proper theoretical and empirical understanding of the phenomenon. What gives rise to child labor and what are its consequences? What are the interventions that we can think of in order to end child labor without hurting children? A well-meaning but poorly designed policy can exacerbate the poverty that these laboring children face and even bring them to starvation. The present paper surveys the large and rapidly growing literature on this subject, focusing mainly on the new literature that uses the best of modern economic theory and econometrics. We then go on to discuss some of the broad policy implications of these new findings and hope that this will contribute to better-informed discussion and policy design in this area.

Suggested Citation

  • Basu, Kaushik & Tzannatos, Zafiris, 2003. "The Global Child Labor Problem: What Do We Know and What Can We Do?," Working Papers 03-06, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:corcae:03-06

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kevin W. S. Roberts, 1980. "Interpersonal Comparability and Social Choice Theory," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 47(2), pages 421-439.
    2. Peter A. Diamond & Tjalling C. Koopmans & Richard E. Williamson, 1962. "Stationary Utility and Time Preference," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 142, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    3. Kaushik Basu & Tapan Mitra, 2003. "Aggregating Infinite Utility Streams with InterGenerational Equity: The Impossibility of Being Paretian," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(5), pages 1557-1563, September.
    4. Asheim, Geir B. & Buchholz, Wolfgang & Tungodden, Bertil, 2001. "Justifying Sustainability," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 252-268, May.
    5. M. Kaneko, 1984. "On interpersonal utility comparisons," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 1(3), pages 165-175, October.
    6. Basu, Kaushik, 1983. "Cardinal utility, utilitarianism, and a class of invariance axioms in welfare analysis," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 193-206, December.
    7. Claude D'Aspremont & Louis Gevers, 1977. "Equity and the Informational Basis of Collective Choice," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 44(2), pages 199-209.
    8. Blackorby, Charles & Donaldson, David & Weymark, John A, 1984. "Social Choice with Interpersonal Utility Comparisons: A Diagrammatic Introduction," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 25(2), pages 327-356, June.
    9. Geir Asheim & Bertil Tungodden, 2004. "Resolving distributional conflicts between generations," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 24(1), pages 221-230, July.
    10. Luc Lauwers, 1996. "Rawlsian equity and generalised utilitarianism with an infinite population (*)," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 9(1), pages 143-150.
    11. Tjalling C. Koopmans, 1959. "Stationary Ordinal Utility and Impatience," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 81, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    12. Gerard Debreu, 1959. "Topological Methods in Cardinal Utility Theory," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 76, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    13. Sen, Amartya K, 1977. "On Weights and Measures: Informational Constraints in Social Welfare Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(7), pages 1539-1572, October.
    14. Eric Maskin, 1978. "A Theorem on Utilitarianism," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 45(1), pages 93-96.
    15. Svensson, Lars-Gunnar, 1980. "Equity among Generations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(5), pages 1251-1256, July.
    16. Mitra, Tapan, 2004. "Intergenerational Equity and the Forest Management Problem," Working Papers 04-17, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I30 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General
    • J00 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - General
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ecl:corcae:03-06. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: () or (Christopher F. Baum). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.