Do You Work or Do You Study? Children's Work in a Comparative Historical Perspective


In this paper we compare two historical scenarios very different one to each other both in institutional and geographical terms. What they have in common is the situation of relative poverty of most of the population. On the one side we are dealing with historical industrializing Catalonia in the North East of Spain, a country exhibiting poor economic yields in the context of European and non European industrializing nations in the 19th century. We compare children's work patterns in 19th century Catalonia with those of current developing countries in Latin America, Africa and South and East Asia. This kind of exercise in which the nexus of the comparison are the levels of wealth of countries that are unsuccessful to achieve high standards of economic growth allows us to combine the micro historical analysis (in the Catalan case) with the macro comparative approach in current developing countries. By means of both, the micro historical analysis and the macro regression analysis we obtain the result that adult women's skills and real wages are a key factor when we want to explain the patterns of children work. While female real wages increased a sharp rate in 19th century Catalonia we obtain very different results in the case of developing countries. This different gender bias helps to explain why in some cases children continue to work and also why some parts of the world continue to be poor according to our regression analysis.