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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