The macroeconomics of child labor regulation

Matthias Doepke*, Fabrizio Zilibotti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


We develop a positive theory of the adoption of child labor laws. Workers who compete with children in the labor market support a child labor ban, unless their own working children provide a large fraction of family income. Fertility decisions lock agents into specific political preferences, and multiple steady states can arise. The introduction of child labor laws can be triggered by skill-biased technological change, which induces parents to choose smaller families. The theory can account for the observation that, in Britain, regulations were first introduced after a period of rising wage inequality, and coincided with rapid fertility decline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1492-1524
Number of pages33
JournalAmerican Economic Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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