resulting from women’s labor force participation should reduce children’s work requirements, if that increased income can be applied to the purchase of child care and domestic help, thus freeing children to go to school and to stay in school longer.
A rich literature on the relationship between family size and children’s school has shown how key elements of context (e.g., level of economic development, government expenditure on education, family systems and gender role ideology, and phase of the demographic transition) mediate that relationship and explain its direction and strength across countries. The same is true of estimated relationships between family size and patterns of child labor (e.g., DeGraff, Bilsborrow, and Herrin, 1993; Jejeebhoy, 1993). Because of differences in gender roles in the family, the consequences of having fewer siblings may play out differently for the work roles of boys and girls. In the case of girls, the greater likelihood that their mothers are working for pay may increase the need for help at home (e.g., Basu, 1995, for the case of poor urban slums in India; Ray, 2002, for Pakistan) but fewer siblings at home may reduce the need for child care. For boys, fewer siblings at home may reduce the need to supplement family income in some settings but may increase it in rural areas in which families have large land holdings or in settings in which family enterprises are important. Edmonds (2003), using panel data from Vietnam, found that per capita expenditure improvements predicted declines in child labor better for boys than for girls; they also predicted changes in large households better than changes in smaller households.
Over the last few decades, the economies of Eastern and Southern Asia, where the majority of young people in developing countries live, have been growing more rapidly than the economies of the developed countries. As a result, the very large gap between these economies has narrowed slightly (Behrman and Sengupta, 2005). In other parts of the developing world, per capita income levels, which were previously much higher than levels in Eastern and Southern Asia have been diverging from per capita income levels in the developed world, most dramatically in the Middle East and the transition economies of Europe and Central Asia, but to some extent in Latin America as well. Per capita income levels in sub-Saharan Africa, which were always among the lowest in the world, have been diverging further from developed country levels. Thus, the overall economic contexts in which most young people in the developing world have been making their transitions to adulthood have changed, and these changes have varied