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This report has sought to provide comprehensive estimates of the likely extent of illegal child labor in the United States, along with indications of its relationship to demographic and job characteristics. Lacking high-quality data on employment of children, it has drawn on several data sources to impute illegal employment. The overall estimate is that about 148,000 children and youths work in violation of federal or state labor laws in an average week.
This high number is a valid policy concern, given many of the documented hazards and deleterious effects that working excessive hours or in unsafe conditions can have on children (Landrigan et al., 1995; NIOSH, 1997). It is roughly five times the number of violations detected by the federal Wage and Hour Division in a year. Given this high number, another lesson from this study is that there is a strong case for developing better data regarding employment of children, in order to document legal and illegal child labor and study both the good and bad effects that they can have. One of the recommendations of the recent report of the NIOSH Child Labor Working Team is that NIOSH Òshould encourage BLS to conduct surveys and report data in a form that provides information about young workers, including workers under age 15 (NIOSH, 1997: 42). The new National Longitudinal Survey of Youth is one venue where employment questions could profitably be added, going beyond hours and occupation questions to identify other ways in which youths may be working under illegal conditions.
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