Malnutrition and Child Labor

20 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2005

See all articles by Garance Genicot

Garance Genicot

Georgetown University - Department of Economics


In pre-industrial and developing economies, it is common to find (i) entire families, including children, working together in family farms or urban factories; and (ii) a positive link between a person's consumption and her productivity. This paper argues that there is a natural reason for the concurrence of (i) and (ii). As a rule, households are characterized by intra-household altruism: an increase in the income of an individual increases the consumption of all household members. Hence, when an employer pays an adult worker a high wage to enhance her productivity, part of it ends up augmenting her children's consumption and productivity. One way for the employer to prevent this leakage and internalize the externality is to employ the children as well. This explains the higher incidence of family labor in poor societies where (ii) is more likely to be true.

Suggested Citation

Genicot, Garance, Malnutrition and Child Labor. Available at SSRN:

Garance Genicot (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - Department of Economics ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States
202-687-7144 (Phone)
202-687-6102 (Fax)


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