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Why is Child Labor Illegal?


  • Dessy, Sylvain
  • Knowles, John


We argue from an empirical analysis of Latin-American household surveys that per capita income in the country of residence has a negative effect on child labor supply, even after controlling for other household characteristics. We then develop a theory of the emergence of mandatory-education laws. If parents are unable to commit to educating their children, child-labor laws can increase the welfare of altruistic parents in an ex ante sense. The theory suggest that measures that reduce child wages can make poor families better off, but that this may come at the expense of even poorer families.

Suggested Citation

  • Dessy, Sylvain & Knowles, John, 2001. "Why is Child Labor Illegal?," Cahiers de recherche 0110, Université Laval - Département d'économique.
  • Handle: RePEc:lvl:laeccr:0110

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    Cited by:

    1. Matthias Doepke & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2010. "Do international labor standards contribute to the persistence of the child-labor problem?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 1-31, March.
    2. Irving Rosales, 2013. "Learn, sweat or steal: a theory of development and the activity of children," Working Papers 0613, Universidad Iberoamericana, Department of Economics.
    3. Simone D’Alessandro & Tamara Fioroni, 2016. "Child labour and inequality," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 14(1), pages 63-79, March.
    4. Matthias Doepke, "undated". "Origins and Consequences of Child Labor Restrictions: A Macroeconomic Perspective," UCLA Economics Online Papers 413, UCLA Department of Economics.
    5. Dirk Krueger & Jessica Tjornhom Donohue, 2005. "On The Distributional Consequences Of Child Labor Legislation," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 46(3), pages 785-815, August.
    6. 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).
    7. Michele Di Maio & Giorgio Fabbri, 2013. "Consumer boycott, household heterogeneity, and child labor," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 26(4), pages 1609-1630, October.
    8. Francisco Gonzalez & Irving Rosales, 2016. "The case against child labor bans," Working Papers 1601, University of Waterloo, Department of Economics, revised Jan 2016.
    9. Chaudhuri, Sanjukta, 2009. "The School Going Child Worker: An Analysis of Poverty, Asset Inequality and Child Education in Rural India," MPRA Paper 19687, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Mazzutti, Caio Cícero Toledo Piza da Costa, 2016. "Three essays on the causal impacts of child labour laws in Brazil," Economics PhD Theses 0616, Department of Economics, University of Sussex.
    11. Sylvain Dessy & Tiana Rambeloma, 2009. "Immigration Policy, Remittances, and Growth in the Migrant-Sending Country," Cahiers de recherche 0915, CIRPEE.

    More about this item


    Child Labor Legislation; Economic Development;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

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