Publication: Minimum Age Regulation and Child Labor: New Evidence from Brazil

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Bargain, Olivier
Boutin, Delphine
This study presents new evidence on the effects of minimum age regulations obtained from a natural experiment. In 1998, a constitutional reform in Brazil changed the minimum working age from 14 to 16. The reform was the legislative counterpart of a broad set of measures taken by a government strongly committed to eliminating child labor. This article investigates the role of the minimum working age in this context. The setting allows for improvements upon past approaches based on comparing employment rates of children at different ages. A discontinuity in treatment is exploited, namely the fact that only children who turned 14 after the enactment date (mid-December 1998) are banned from work. According to regression discontinuity and difference-in-discontinuity designs, the null hypothesis of no overall effect of the ban cannot be rejected. Throughout the methods and specifications, an employment effect in a confidence interval of [−0.06,0.03] (in percentage points) is found. A detailed heterogeneity analysis is performed and provides suggestive evidence of diminishing child labor trends in regions characterized by higher labor inspection intensity, which is interpreted as a trace of there being a law. However, contrary to what has been claimed in recent studies, the law seems not to have produced sizeable effects overall, at least in the short run. Power calculations and extensive sensitivity checks support these conclusions.
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Bargain, Olivier; Boutin, Delphine. 2019. Minimum Age Regulation and Child Labor: New Evidence from Brazil. World Bank Economic Review. © Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank. License: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 IGO .
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