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Abstract

The health consequences of child labor may take time to manifest themselves. This study examines whether adults who worked as children experience increased incidence of illness or physical disability. The analysis corrects for the likely endogeneity of child labor and years of schooling using variation across localities in the number of schools and teachers per child, and in low skill wages dated back to the time when the adults were children. Results show that the effects of child labor on adult health are complex. When child labor and schooling are treated as exogenous variables, child labor appears to increase the likelihood of poor health outcomes in adulthood across a wide variety of health measures. However, when child labor and schooling are considered endogenous, they lose power to explain adverse adult health outcomes in almost all cases. When analyzed separately for subsamples of males and females, the explanatory power of schooling and child labor completely disappears. Failing to find a causal link between child labor and adverse adult health outcomes, we conclude that the correlation between the two is related to unobservable health and ability endowments that jointly affect child labor supply, schooling, and adult health.

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