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Is Product Boycott a Good Idea for Controlling Child Labor?

  • Basu, Kaushik

    (Cornell U)

  • Zarghamee, Homa

    (Cornell U)

A popular form of action to curb child labor and uphold international labor standards in general is a product boycott by consumers. There are labeling agencies that inform us if, for instance, a carpet or a hand-stitched soccer ball is free of child labor. The presence of a consumer boycott will typically mean that products tainted by child labor will command a lower price on the market than ones certified to be untainted. It is popularly presumed that such consumer activism is desirable. The paper formally investigates this presumption and shows that consumer product boycotts can, in a wide class of situations, have a backlash that causes child labor to rise rather than fall. This happens under weak and plausible assumptions. Hence, there has to be much greater caution in the use of consumer activism and one has to have much more detailed information about the context, where child labor occurs, before using a boycott.

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Paper provided by Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics in its series Working Papers with number 05-14.

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Date of creation: Aug 2005
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:corcae:05-14
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  1. Basu, Kaushik & Van, Pham Hoang, 1998. "The Economics of Child Labor," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 412-27, June.
  2. Sharma, Alakh N & Sharma, Rajeev & Raj, Nikhil, 2000. "The impact of social labelling on child labour in India's carpet industry," ILO Working Papers 365972, International Labour Organization.
  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. Basu, Kaushik, 1999. "The intriguing relation between adult minimum wage and child labor," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2173, The World Bank.
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  11. Matthias Doepke & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2005. "The macroeconomics of child labor regulation," Staff Report 354, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Uma Kambhampati, 2004. "Does Child Work Decrease with Parental Income?: The Luxury Axiom Revisited in India," Economics & Management Discussion Papers em-dp2004-02, Henley Business School, Reading University.
  15. E. Paul Durrenberger, 2005. "Labour," Chapters, in: A Handbook of Economic Anthropology, chapter 8 Edward Elgar.
  16. Sylvain E. Dessy & Stéphane Pallage, 2005. "A Theory of the Worst Forms of Child Labour," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(500), pages 68-87, 01.
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