Why Children Work, Attend School, or Stay Idle: Theory and Evidence
This paper offers a theoretical and empirical analysis of child labor, schooling, and `idleness' (neither work nor school), with particular emphasis on the roles of child ability and credit constraints in determining these decisions. We show theoretically that `idleness' may be chosen optimally by borrowing-constrained households whose child is of low ability. As well, children in the poorest households combine work and schooling if they are sufficiently able. Using a rich dataset from the Philippines, we find that while other factors--including mother's labor supply, the presence of a family business, and access to good school quality--contribute to these decisions, child ability and household wealth are the most important determinants of child idleness and the use of child labor. Our results suggest that the appropriate policy focus is not a ban on child labor, which may only increase the pool of idle children, in some cases by decreasing child schooling. Any policy aiming to reduce child labor and increase child schooling should also target improvements in child ability and cognitive development through investments in the nutrition and health of poor children
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|Date of creation:||11 Aug 2004|
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