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The history and future of child labor in the U.S.

A group of boys covered with dust stand in front of the entrance to a mine.
Lewis Wickes Hine
Library of Congress
Breaker boys working in Ewen Breaker of Pennsylvania Coal Co., 1911.

Child labor has been practiced throughout history, reaching its pinnacle during the industrial revolution when miserable working conditions and a lack of safety codes were ubiquitous.

It wasn't until the Depression that society started to limit child labor, and that was because so many adults were desperate for jobs.

Now a labor shortage is turning the tables, with more than a dozen states including Ohio working to loosen regulations for child labor.

All of this is happening while recent Justice Department investigations have found several companies violated existing child labor laws.


  • Lauren Kaori Gurley, reporter for Washington Post
  • Katherine Kaufka Walts, Director of the Center for the Human Rights of Children at Loyola University Chicago
  • Dan Bowling, Professor of Law, Duke University
  • David Weil, Professor of Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University

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