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Observations on International Labor Standards and Trade

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  • Alan B. Krueger

Abstract

This paper reviews the theoretical arguments for and against linking international labor standards to trade. Based on theory alone it is difficult to generalize about the effect of labor standards on efficiency and equity. Some economists have argued that international labor standards are merely disguised protectionism. An evaluation of determinants of support for legislation that would ban imports to the United States of goods made with child labor provides little support for the prevailing political economy view. In particular, members of Congress representing districts with relatively many unskilled workers, who are most likely to compete with child labor, are less likely to support a ban on imports made with child labor. Another finding is that the prevalence of child labor declines sharply with national income. Last, an analysis of compulsory schooling laws, which are often suggested as an alternative to prohibiting child labor, finds a tremendous amount of noncompliance in developing nations.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan B. Krueger, 1996. "Observations on International Labor Standards and Trade," NBER Working Papers 5632, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5632
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Grossman, G.M & Krueger, A.B., 1991. "Environmental Impacts of a North American Free Trade Agreement," Papers 158, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
    2. Squire, Lyn & Suthiwart-Narueput, Sethaput, 1997. "The Impact of Labor Market Regulations," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 11(1), pages 119-143, January.
    3. Kenneth A. Swinnerton, 1997. "An Essay on Economic Efficiency and Core Labour Standards," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 20(1), pages 73-86, January.
    4. Psacharopoulos, George, 1994. "Returns to investment in education: A global update," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 22(9), pages 1325-1343, September.
    5. Maskus, Keith E. & Rutherford, Thomas J. & Selby, Steven, 1995. "Implications of changes in labor standards: A computational analysis for Mexico," The North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 6(2), pages 171-188.
    6. Krueger, Anne O, 1974. "The Political Economy of the Rent-Seeking Society," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(3), pages 291-303, June.
    7. Steve Charnovitz, 1992. "Environmental and Labour Standards in Trade," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(3), pages 335-356, May.
    8. Joshua D. Angrist & Alan B. Keueger, 1991. "Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(4), pages 979-1014.
    9. Harmon, Harmon & Ian Walker, 1995. "Estimates of the economic return to schooling for the UK," IFS Working Papers W95/12, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J38 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Public Policy
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations

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