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

UCLA Department of Economics Working Paper No. 828

56 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 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 labor laws. The key mechanism in our model is that parents' decisions on family size interact with their preferences for child labor regulation. If policies are endogenous, multiple steady states with different child labor policies can exist. Consistent with empirical evidence, the model predicts a positive correlation between child labor, fertility, and inequality across countries of similar per-capita income. In addition, the theory implies that the political support for regulation should increase if a rising skill premium induces parents to choose smaller families. The model replicates features of the history of the U.K. in the nineteenth century, when regulations were introduced after a period of rising wage inequality, and coincided with rapidly declining fertility rates and an expansion of education.

Keywords: Child labor, fertility, political economy, inequality

JEL Classification: J13, J38, N30, O10, O30

Suggested Citation

Doepke, Matthias and Zilibotti, Fabrizio, Voting with Your Children: A Positive Analysis of Child Labor Laws (February 2003). UCLA Department of Economics Working Paper No. 828, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=385282 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.385282

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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