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Child Labor and Learning


  • Emerson, Patrick M.

    () (Oregon State University)

  • Ponczek, Vladimir

    () (Sao Paulo School of Economics)

  • Portela Souza, André

    () (Sao Paulo School of Economics)


This paper investigates the impact of working while in school on learning outcomes through the use of a unique micro panel dataset of students in the São Paulo municipal school system. The potential endogeneity of working decisions and learning outcomes is addressed through the use of a difference-in-difference estimator and it is shown that the results are robust. A negative and significant effect of working on learning outcomes in both math and Portuguese is found. The effects of child work from the benchmark regressions range from 3% to 8% of a standard deviation decline in test score which represents a loss of about a quarter to a half of a year of learning on average. Additionally, it is found that this effect is likely due to the interference of work with the time kids can devote to school and school work.

Suggested Citation

  • Emerson, Patrick M. & Ponczek, Vladimir & Portela Souza, André, 2013. "Child Labor and Learning," IZA Discussion Papers 7578, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7578

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Heady, Christopher, 2003. "The Effect of Child Labor on Learning Achievement," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 385-398, February.
    2. Buonomo Zabaleta, Mariela, 2011. "The impact of child labor on schooling outcomes in Nicaragua," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 1527-1539.
    3. Horowitz, Andrew W. & Wang, Jian, 2004. "Favorite son? Specialized child laborers and students in poor LDC households," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 631-642, April.
    4. Kathleen Beegle & Rajeev Dehejia & Roberta Gatti, 2009. "Why Should We Care About Child Labor?: The Education, Labor Market, and Health Consequences of Child Labor," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(4).
    5. Victoria Gunnarsson & Peter F. Orazem & Mario A. Sánchez, 2006. "Child Labor and School Achievement in Latin America," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 20(1), pages 31-54.
    6. Jean-Marie Baland & James A. Robinson, 2000. "Is Child Labor Inefficient?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(4), pages 663-679, August.
    7. Dessy, Sylvain E., 2000. "A defense of compulsive measures against child labor," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(1), pages 261-275, June.
    8. Canals-Cerda, Jose & Ridao-Cano, Cristobal, 2004. "The dynamics of school and work in rural Bangladesh," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3330, The World Bank.
    9. Vladimir Ponczek & Andre Portela Souza, 2012. "New Evidence of the Causal Effect of Family Size on Child Quality in a Developing Country," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 47(1), pages 64-106.
    10. Basu, Kaushik, 2002. "A note on multiple general equilibria with child labor," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 74(3), pages 301-308, February.
    11. Jerik Hanushek & Dennis Kimko, 2006. "Schooling, Labor-force Quality, and the Growth of Nations," Educational Studies, Higher School of Economics, issue 1, pages 154-193.
    12. Lee, Chanyoung & Orazem, Peter, 2008. "Lifetime Health Consequences of Child Labor in Brazil," Staff General Research Papers Archive 12933, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    13. Mette Ejrnæs & Claus C. Pörtner, 2004. "Birth Order and the Intrahousehold Allocation of Time and Education," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(4), pages 1008-1019, November.
    14. Christelle Dumas, 2012. "Does Work Impede Child Learning? The Case of Senegal," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60(4), pages 773-793.
    15. Emerson, Patrick M & Souza, Andre Portela, 2003. "Is There a Child Labor Trap? Intergenerational Persistence of Child Labor in Brazil," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(2), pages 375-398, January.
    16. Bezerra, Márcio Eduardo G. & Kassouf, Ana Lucia & Arends-Kuenning, Mary P., 2009. "The Impact of Child Labor and School Quality on Academic Achievement in Brazil," IZA Discussion Papers 4062, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    17. Duryea, Suzanne & Lam, David & Levison, Deborah, 2007. "Effects of economic shocks on children's employment and schooling in Brazil," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 188-214, September.
    18. repec:eme:rleczz:s0147-9121(2010)0000031007 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Ravallion, Martin & Wodon, Quentin, 2000. "Does Child Labour Displace Schooling? Evidence on Behavioural Responses to an Enrollment Subsidy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(462), pages 158-175, March.
    20. Beegle, Kathleen & Dehejia, Rajeev H. & Gatti, Roberta, 2006. "Child labor and agricultural shocks," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 80-96, October.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Do child laborers learn less?
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2013-10-09 20:10:00


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    Cited by:

    1. Piza, Caio & Souza, André Portela Fernandes de, 2016. "Short and long-term effects of a child-labor ban," Textos para discussão 428, FGV/EESP - Escola de Economia de São Paulo, Getulio Vargas Foundation (Brazil).
    2. Scot,Thiago & Rodella,Aude-Sophie, 2016. "Sifting through the Data : labor markets in Haiti through a turbulent decade (2001-2012)," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7562, The World Bank.

    More about this item


    child labor; learning; proficiency; education;

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education

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