Voting with Your Children: A Positive Analysis of Child Labour Laws

57 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2003

See all articles by Matthias Doepke

Matthias Doepke

Northwestern University - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Fabrizio Zilibotti

Yale University; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: February 2003

Abstract

We develop a positive theory of the adoption of child-labour regulation, based on two key mechanisms. First, parental decisions on family size interact with their preferences for child-labour regulation. Second, the supply of child labour affects skilled and unskilled wages. If policies are endogenous, multiple steady-states with different child-labour policies can exist. The model is consistent with international evidence on the incidence of child labour. In particular, it predicts a positive correlation between child labour, fertility and inequality across countries of similar income per capita. The model also predicts that the political support for regulation should increase if a rising skill premium induces parents to choose smaller families. A calibration of the model shows that it can replicate features of the history of the UK in the 19th Century, when regulations were introduced after a period of rising wage inequality, and coincided with rapidly declining fertility and rising educational levels.

Keywords: Child labour, political economy, inequality, fertility, transition, dynamic general equilibrium

JEL Classification: J13, J24, N30, O11

Suggested Citation

Doepke, Matthias and Zilibotti, Fabrizio, Voting with Your Children: A Positive Analysis of Child Labour Laws (February 2003). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=381261

Matthias Doepke (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Department of Economics ( email )

2003 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Fabrizio Zilibotti

Yale University ( email )

New Haven, CT 06520
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

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