2016 Democracy and Human Rights, Economic Development, Education and Research Other

Child education, child labor and the agricultural economy

Elin Vimefall

Most poor people in the world live in rural communities, and they are more likely to be women, children, or members of a minority ethnic group. The research presented in this brief focus on these individuals, the most vulnerable in society. It consists of four separate papers, with somewhat different focus. The first two papers focus on children and human capital, while the other two focus on the agricultural economy.

Main findings

  • Ethnolinguistic background is important for explaining the child’s probability of being in school. It has a statistically significant impact, which supports the hypothesis that differences in culture and norms among language groups influence the expected costs and benefits of education.
  • Children living in households that rely solely on production of their own farm are approximately 3 percentage points more likely to work as their main activity and approximately 2 percentage points less likely to be in school than children from more diversified households. They also work more hours than children in diversified households.
  • Female-headed households have a larger probability of relying only on earnings from the own farm. Female-headed households are generally less likely to diversify into non-agricultural wage work. These activities have been shown to be important ways out of poverty.
  • Approximately 80% of households would be negatively affected by an increase in the price of maize. Poor households would lose a larger proportion of their welfare than better-off households. Specifically, rural landless households would lose the most. Although a larger proportion of urban house-holds lose, the magnitude of the effect is smaller than in the rural areas.

Policy implications

  • Policies must focus on getting girls enrolled in school. This could be done, for example, through targeted cash transfer programs.
  • Policy should focus on allowing households to gain access to the labor market.
  • Vulnerability to increases in the price of maize can be reduced by increasing access to employment outside of agriculture or by increasing productivity on the farm.

Elin Vimefall is a researcher at the Örebro University School of Business. She defended her dissertation Essays on child education, child labor and the agricultural economy at Örebro University School of Business in September 2015.