The Market for Children: Evidence from Early Modern Japan
JOURNAL OF LAW, ECONOMICS, AND ORGANIZATION, Vol 11 No 1, Spring 1995
Posted: 3 Nov 1998
Using a data set of about 1000 Japanese contracts, I study the relationships among urban labor markets, peasant employment contracts ,and parental control over work-age children. From 1600 to the mid-18th century, the use of contracts for the sale, pledge, or long-term employment of children fell drastically. The reason apparently lies in the development of a large non-agricultural labor market. Because this market (with its informal, at-will contractual terms) made it profitable for so many children to abscond, it threatened any property right that parents may once have had in their children's work. And absent that property right, most employers no longer offered long-term contracts on attractive terms. By making it profitable for dissatisfied children to abscond, this new labor market also reduced the control that parents had over their children. Indirectly to be sure, it shaped relations within the family and constrained domestic exploitation as well.
JEL Classification: J40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation