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Unintended Consequences for Children

International children’s rights advocates focus significant resources on eliminating child labor in developing countries, often advocating consumer boycotts and international regulation. Despite all these efforts, however, child labor is still prevalent throughout the developing world. Matthias Doepke and Fabrizio Zilibotti think all that international pressure may actually be worsening the child labor problem. The economists point out that reform in the developed world was driven by the unskilled workers who competed with children for employment. Today, external measures like boycotts eliminate that mechanism by shifting child laborers to the informal sector and reducing the incentive for unskilled workers to advocate for reform. The authors instead suggest policies which reward parents for sending their kids to school, discourage high fertility, and support families dependent on child-labor income. [%comments]