Telecommunications Technologies, Agricultural Profitability, and Child Labor in Rural Peru
This paper provides evidence on the effects of access to telecommunications technologies on agricultural profitability and human capital investment decisions among highly isolated villages in rural Peru. I exploit a quasi-natural experiment, in which the Peruvian government through the Fund for Investments in Telecommunications (FITEL) provided at least one public (satellite) payphone to 6,509 rural villages that did not previously have any kind of communication services (either landlines or cell phones). The intervention provided these phones mainly between years 2001 and 2004. I show that the timing of the intervention was uncorrelated with baseline outcomes and exploit differences in timing using a uniquely constructed (unbalanced) panel of treated villages spanning the years 1997 through 2007. The main findings suggest that phone access generated increases of 16 percent in the value per kilogram received by farmers for their agricultural production, and a 23.7 percent reduction in agricultural costs. Moreover, this income shock translated into a reduction in child (6 – 13 years old) market work of 13.7 percentage points and a reduction in child agricultural work of 9.2 percentage points. Overall, the evidence suggests a dominant income effect in the utilization of child labor.
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