Monday, November 4, 2013

Child labor and fertility

Child labor has often been described as a vicious circle. Parents have too little income to feed their family and require their children to work. Children do not get educated and end up earning too little to sustain their own family. One may then question why they decide to have children in the first place.

Simone D’Alessandro and Tamara Fioroni build a model of human capital and fertility with child labor. At least in theory, they highlight that destitute parents find it relatively advantageous to have children: they are less costly as they can work. If their net contribution is positive, they want to have many children. And this mechanism can be self-reinforcing if the gap between skilled and unskilled wages is large. This is an amplified quantity/quality trade-off that increases child labor and leads to more wage inequality. The only way out is to make it more attractive for unskilled parents to have fewer children and not have them work. Legislating child labor away will not help, as already demonstrated many times. One example was discussed here, and some was to get one of the vicious circle as well: 1, 2, 3.

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