Child Labor, Schooling, and Child Ability (Professional Paper)

Publisher: Champaign, IL: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Apr 20, 2016
Richard Akresh, Emilie Bagby, Damien de Walque, and Harounan Kazianga
Using data we collected in rural Burkina Faso, we examine how children’s cognitive abilities influence households’ decisions to invest in their education. To address the endogeneity of child ability measures, we use rainfall shocks experienced in utero or early childhood to instrument for ability. Negative shocks in utero lead to 0.24 standard deviations lower ability z-scores, corresponding with a 38 percent enrollment drop and a 49 percent increase in child labor hours compared with their siblings. Negative education impacts are largest for in utero shocks, diminished for shocks before age two, and have no impact for shocks after age two. We link the fetal origins hypothesis and sibling rivalry literatures by showing that shocks experienced in utero not only have direct negative impacts on the child’s cognitive ability (fetal origins hypothesis) but also negatively impact the child through the effects on sibling rivalry resulting from the cognitive differences.