Going beyond poverty : parents' decisions about child labor and schooling
This dissertation focuses on the analysis of child labor in Mexico. It examines how families make decisions about child labor and schooling in a context of poverty and marginalization. I argue that the impact of poverty is mediated by cultural and social factors that determine activities done by children. The dissertation explores work opportunities available for children in rural and urban areas, and how these opportunities shape decisions. In some cases, urban life has become something desired; in others, there is a lack of opportunity to attend school. But in all cases, poverty is a constant. The cost of schooling can be very high; even when public education is available, many families are not able to afford it. However, poverty in itself does not necessarily leads to child labor; culture and prejudices about gender roles, mediate the perceived cost of schooling. This research demonstrates important differences between the activities that boys and girls perform, as a result of the ideas that their parents have of what a child “must do” because of being a boy or a girl. It also highlights the influence of culture and personal history in the decision making process.
Finally, in addition to highlighting the importance of a human rights perspective and a gender-based approach, this research underlines the importance of including a definition of child labor that goes beyond economic activities, and considers unpaid domestic work and marginal activities as part of the definition, in order to be able to better understand parents’ decisions about child labor and schooling.