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Free Education Helps Combat Child Labor? The Effect of a Free Compulsory Education Reform in Rural China

Author

Listed:
  • Can Tang

    (School of Business, Shanghai University of International Business and Economics)

  • Liqiu Zhao

    () (Renmin University of China)

  • Zhong Zhao

    () (Renmin University of China)

Abstract

This paper evaluates the effect of a free compulsory education reform in rural China on the incidence of child labor. We exploit the cross-province variation in the roll-out of the reform and apply a difference-in-differences strategy to identify the causal effects of the reform. We find that the exposure to the free compulsory education significantly reduces the incidence of child labor for boys, but has no significant effect on the likelihood of child labor for girls. Specifically, one additional semester of free compulsory education decreases the incidence of child labor for boys by 8.3 percentage points. Moreover, the negative effect of the reform on the likelihood of child labor is stronger for boys from households with lower socioeconomic status. Finally, the free compulsory education reform may induce parents to reallocate resources towards boys within a household and thus may enlarge the gender gap in human capital investment.

Suggested Citation

  • Can Tang & Liqiu Zhao & Zhong Zhao, 2019. "Free Education Helps Combat Child Labor? The Effect of a Free Compulsory Education Reform in Rural China," Working Papers 2019-036, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
  • Handle: RePEc:hka:wpaper:2019-036
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    File URL: http://humcap.uchicago.edu/RePEc/hka/wpaper/Tang_Zhao_Zhao_2019_free-education-combat-child-labor.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    free compulsory education reform; child labor; son preference; rural China;

    JEL classification:

    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • O20 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy - - - General

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