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Inequality, Productivity, and Child Labor: Theory and Evidence

A recent theoretical literature has linked reductions in income inequality to reductions in child labor in countries that are relatively well-off, but has not explored how income distribution affects child labor in very poor countries. We show that while in higher-productivity countries with child labor, a more equal income distribution will reduce or eliminate child labor, in low productivity countries, a more equal distribution of income will exacerbate child labor. Econometric specifications studying child labor among 10- to-14 year olds yield results generally consistent with these predictions. Policy actions that aim to bring about more equality so as to reduce child labor will likely not have the desired effect unless a country in which they are taken is sufficiently wealthy.

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Paper provided by Georgetown University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number gueconwpa~01-01-10.

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Date of creation: 10 Jan 2001
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Handle: RePEc:geo:guwopa:gueconwpa~01-01-10
Contact details of provider: Postal: Georgetown University Department of Economics Washington, DC 20057-1036
Phone: 202-687-6074
Fax: 202-687-6102
Web page: http://econ.georgetown.edu/
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Order Information: Postal: Roger Lagunoff Professor of Economics Georgetown University Department of Economics Washington, DC 20057-1036
Web: http://econ.georgetown.edu/ Email:


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  1. Ranjan, Priya, 1999. "An economic analysis of child labor," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 99-105, July.
  2. Kristin J. Forbes, 2000. "A Reassessment of the Relationship between Inequality and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 869-887, September.
  3. Persson, T. & Tabellini, G., 1993. "Is Inequality Harmful for Growth," Papers 537, Stockholm - International Economic Studies.
  4. Carol Ann Rogers & Kenneth A. Swinnerton, 1999. "The Economics of Child Labor: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1382-1385, December.
  5. Eric Hanushek & Charles Ka Yui Leung & Kuzey Yilmaz, 2001. "Redistribution through Education and Other Transfer Mechanisms," NBER Working Papers 8588, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Rothschild, Michael & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1970. "Increasing risk: I. A definition," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 225-243, September.
  7. Chernichovsky, Dov, 1985. "Socioeconomic and Demographic Aspects of School Enrollment and Attendance in Rural Botswana," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(2), pages 319-32, January.
  8. Basu, Kaushik, 1998. "Child labor : cause, consequence, and cure, with remarks on International Labor Standards," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2027, The World Bank.
  9. Perotti, Roberto, 1996. " Growth, Income Distribution, and Democracy: What the Data Say," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(2), pages 149-87, June.
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