September 2017

IZA DP No. 10992: Child Schooling and Child Work in the Presence of a Partial Education Subsidy

Could a partial subsidy for child education increase children's participation in paid work? In contrast to much of the theoretical and empirical child labor literature, this paper shows that child work and school participation can be complements under certain conditions. Using data from the randomized evaluation of a conditional cash transfer program in the Philippines, the analysis finds that some children, who were in neither school nor work before the program, increased participation in school and work-for-pay after the program. Earlier cash transfer programs, notably those in Mexico, Brazil, and Ecuador, increased school attendance while reducing child labor. Those programs fully offset schooling costs, while the transfers under the Philippine transfers fall short of the full costs of schooling for a typical child. As a result, some beneficiary children from poor Philippine households increased work to support their schooling. The additional earnings from this work represent a substantive share of the shortfall in the schooling costs net of transfer. The paper rules out several potential alternative explanations for the increase in child labor, including changes in household productive activities, adult labor supply, and household expenditure patterns that, in principle, can arise after a cash transfer and may also affect the supply of or demand for child labor.