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Is Child Work Injurious to Health?

  • Aditi Roy

    (SMU)

Estimating the causal impact of child work on the contemporaneous health of a child has proven quite challenging given non-random selection into the labor market and the inability to find strong and valid instruments. Our data, the Indonesian Family Life Survey is no different. Recognizing the lack of a credible instrument, we instead pursue a different strategy based on the methodology of Altonji et al. (JPE, 2005). This method assesses the robustness of the impact of child work estimated under the assumption of random selection (i.e., selection into child work on observable attributes only) to varying degrees of non-random selection (i.e., selection into child labor on unobservable attributes). If the estimated effect is found to be extremely sensitive to selection on unobservables, then one should be wary about inferring an adverse causal effect of child work. In addition, the nature of the selection process is identified using parametric assumptions. The results are striking, suggesting positive selection of children into work when we consider underweight and high weight status as dependent variables. This indicates that there is both healthy worker selection effect as well as unhealthy worker selection effect. There is however negative selection into work for the children belonging to the intermediate weight range. This heterogeneity in the selection process across the distribution has not been previously identified in the literature. Moreover, we also find evidence suggesting a heterogeneous impact of child work on health once we allow for a modest amount of selection on unobservables. Specifically, we find evidence of a negative causal effect of work on healthier children, but evidence of beneficial impact of work on the least healthy children.

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Paper provided by Southern Methodist University, Department of Economics in its series Departmental Working Papers with number 0905.

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Length: 22 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:smu:ecowpa:0905
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics, P.O. Box 750496, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX 75275-0496
Phone: 214-768-2715
Fax: 214-768-1821
Web page: http://www.smu.edu/economics

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  1. James H. Stock & Motohiro Yogo, 2002. "Testing for Weak Instruments in Linear IV Regression," NBER Technical Working Papers 0284, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Joseph G. Altonji & Todd E. Elder & Christopher R. Taber, 2005. "Selection on Observed and Unobserved Variables: Assessing the Effectiveness of Catholic Schools," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(1), pages 151-184, February.
  3. James P. Smith, 1999. "Healthy Bodies and Thick Wallets: The Dual Relation between Health and Economic Status," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(2), pages 145-166, Spring.
  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. O.O'Donnell & F.Rosati & E.van Doorslaer, 2003. "Health Effects of Children's Work: Evidence from Vietnam," UCW Working Paper 2, Understanding Children's Work (UCW Programme).
  6. Daniel Millimet & Rusty Tchernis & Muna Hussain, 2007. "School Nutrition Programs and the Incidence of Childhood Obesity," Caepr Working Papers 2007-014, Center for Applied Economics and Policy Research, Economics Department, Indiana University Bloomington.
  7. F. Rosati & R. Straub, 2006. "Does Work during Childhood affect Adult's Health? An Analysis for Guatemala," UCW Working Paper 10, Understanding Children's Work (UCW Programme).
  8. Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Stature and the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1903-1940, December.
  9. O.O'Donnel & F.Rosati & E.van Doorslaer, 2002. "Child Labour and Health: Evidence and Research Issues," UCW Working Paper 1, Understanding Children's Work (UCW Programme).
  10. David N. Weil, 2005. "Accounting for the Effect of Health on Economic Growth," Working Papers 2005-07, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  11. John Strauss & Duncan Thomas, 1998. "Health, Nutrition, and Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(2), pages 766-817, June.
  12. Wolff, Fran├žois-Charles & Maliki, 2008. "Evidence on the impact of child labor on child health in Indonesia, 1993-2000," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 143-169, March.
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