Three Essays on Anglo-American Labor Reform

Gregory Golino

Advisor: Noel D Johnson, PhD, Department of Economics

Committee Members: Alex Tabarrok, Mark Koyama

Online Location, #D150
April 23, 2020, 01:00 PM to 03:00 PM


This dissertation focuses on Anglo-American labor reforms during the Industrial Revolution.  The most common explanations for the changing age profile of the labor force are evaluated.  New insight to the political economy of regulation is provided using empirical methods and game theoretic models.

Chapter 1 reviews theories which explain the supply and demand of child labor in industrial settings. The chapter considers an empirical approach to connecting technological progress with the demand for child labor. Using data from the British Factory Returns, it finds mixed support for existing theories. 

Chapter 2 contains an in-depth empirical analysis of the differences in enforcing the Factory Acts, a series of progressive labor reforms in Victorian Britain.  These new regulations focused on protecting women and children from harsh working conditions.  While inspectors were diligent in prosecuting law-breaking firms, local magistrates had varied behavior in convicting the accused.  It is demonstrated that magistrates with ties to the regulated industries were less likely to convict a defendant.  It is also suggested that checks on the behavior of magistrates were not effective.

Chapter 3 explores the impact of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) on banning child labor from mines.  A simple game theoretic model offers an explanation of why a union or government action was necessary to remove children from mines.  Geological data is used as an instrument for testing whether distance affected the miners’ ability to organize. The paper concludes that the UMWA appears to have been very effective in achieving their goals.