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Explaining variation in child labor statistics

  • Dillon, Andrew
  • Bardasi, Elena
  • Beegle, Kathleen
  • Serneels, Pieter

Child labor statistics are critical for assessing the extent and nature of child labor activities in developing countries. In practice, widespread variation exists in how childlabor is measured. Questionnaire modules vary across countries and within countries over time along several dimensions, including respondent type and the structure of the questionnaire. Little is known about the effect of these differences on child labor statistics. This paper presents the results from a randomized survey experiment in Tanzania focusing on two survey aspects: different questionnaire design to classify children work and proxy response versus self-reporting. Use of a short module compared with a more detailed questionnaire has a statistically significant effect, especially on child labor force participation rates, and, to a lesser extent, on working hours. Proxy reports do not differ significantly from a child’s self-report. Further analysis demonstrates that survey design choices affect the coefficient estimates of some determinants of child labor in a child labor supply equation. The results suggest that low-cost changes to questionnaire design to clarify the concept of work for respondents can improve the data collected.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 5414.

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Date of creation: 01 Sep 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5414
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  1. Sonia Bhalotra & Christopher Heady, 2003. "Child Farm Labor: The Wealth Paradox," Bristol Economics Discussion Papers 03/553, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  2. Basu, Kaushik & Van, Pham Hoang, 1998. "The Economics of Child Labor," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 412-27, June.
  3. Bardasi, Elena & Beegle, Kathleen & Dillon, Andrew & Serneels, Pieter, 2010. "Do Labor Statistics Depend on How and to Whom the Questions Are Asked? Results from a Survey Experiment in Tanzania," IZA Discussion Papers 4733, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. L. Guarcello & I. Kovrova & S. Lyon & M. Manacorda & F. C. Rosati, 2010. "Towards consistency in child labour measurement: Assessing the comparability of estimates generated by different survey instruments," UCW Working Paper 54, Understanding Children's Work (UCW Programme).
  5. Eric V. Edmonds, 2005. "Does Child Labor Decline with Improving Economic Status?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(1).
  6. Eric V. Edmonds & Norbert Schady, 2012. "Poverty Alleviation and Child Labor," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 100-124, November.
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