IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Illegal Child Labor in the United States: Prevalence and Characteristics

Listed author(s):
  • Douglas Kruse
  • Douglas Mahony

This study provides the first comprehensive estimates of children and youth working under conditions that violate federal and state child labor laws. Using the CPS, NLS, and other sources, it is estimated that 148,000 minors are employed illegally in an average week working too many hours or in hazardous occupations and 290,000 are employed illegally at some point during a year. The total number of hours worked illegally is about 113 million per year, for which these minors are paid over $560 million. Whites, males, and 15-year-olds are the most likely to be working in violation of child labor laws. Youths working illegally in hazardous jobs earn on average $1.38 per hour less than legal young adults in the same occupations, which combined with the savings from employing youths for excessive hours adds up to a total employer cost savings of roughly $155 million per year. In addition to raising important policy concerns about the health and well-being of these youths, the findings make a case for the development of high-quality employment data on children and youths, to improve estimates of illegal employment and study its effects.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6479.

in new window

Date of creation: Mar 1998
Publication status: published as Kruse, Douglas L. and Douglas Mahony. "Illegal Child Labor In The United States: Prevalence And Characteristics," International Labor Relations Review, 2000, v54(1,Oct), 17-40.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6479
Note: LS
Contact details of provider: Postal:
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.

Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

in new window

  1. Richard B. Freeman & James L. Medoff, 1982. "Why Does the Rate of Youth Labor Force Activity Differ across Surveys?," NBER Chapters,in: The Youth Labor Market Problem: Its Nature, Causes, and Consequences, pages 75-114 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Kathleen Stanley, 1992. "Immigrant and Refugee Workers in the Midwestern Meatpacking Industry: Industrial Restructuring and the Transformation of Rural Labor Markets," Review of Policy Research, Policy Studies Organization, vol. 11(2), pages 106-117, June.
  3. Holleran Philip M., 1993. "Child Labor and Exploitation in Turn-of-the-Century Cotton Mills," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 485-500, October.
  4. Parsons, Donald O & Goldin, Claudia, 1989. "Parental Altruism and Self-Interest: Child Labor among Late Nineteenth-Century American Families," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 27(4), pages 637-659, October.
  5. Brown, Martin & Christiansen, Jens & Philips, Peter, 1992. "The Decline of Child Labor in the U.S. Fruit and Vegetable Canning Industry: Law or Economics?," Business History Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(04), pages 723-770, December.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6479. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.