needed to contribute to the family's enterprise as soon as they were old enough. They could watch their baby brothers and sisters, clean the house, fetch water, pick weeds, spin cotton thread or work as a servant in someone else's home. The employment of children in textile factories and mines, however, seemed different from the employment of children on the farm or in cottages. The number of children and youths working outside the home increased dramatically. Although some children still helped around the house and worked as farm laborers and domestic servants, many children filled the new occupations of textile worker and miner. In addition, there had never been so many children and youths working together in one place, under one roof. Children who had worked on the farm or in a cottage industry were scattered across the country, working in small family establishments. Children who were employed in the mills, factories and manufactories worked under one roof alongside many other children. The concentration of children and youths into identifiable work places drew public attention to this new use of child labor. Inhabitants of textile towns were familiar with the sound of their little feet pattering on the streets at day break as they made their way to the factories and at night when they dragged themselves back home. The long hours they worked and its toll on their physical stature and emotional state were visible to the entire British population. Child labor may not have been a new phenomenon, but it took on an entirely new dimension.
The increase in the number of child laborers, moreover, could not be explained by an increase in the supply of child labor. Impoverished families needed their children to work, whether it was during the preindustrial era or during the Industrial Revolution. Unless new evidence is discovered that shows a dramatic increase in poverty during this period, poverty cannot explain the increase in the employment of children and youths. In addition, parents had not changed their attitudes about their children during the Industrial Revolution and suddenly become greedy or abusive. Families decided their sons and daughters should work when the wages they brought home exceeded the cost of having them work (value of home work, leisure and schooling). There is no evidence, moreover, that the number of alcoholic parents increased such that children were working in factories and mines to "escape" abuse at home. How do we explain the fact that the textile factories and mines were filled with child laborers? Why was the employment of children and young persons concentrated in some industries and not in others? The next chapter develops a theoretical framework to address these questions. The argument focuses on demand, not supply, as the reason for the increased employment of children and youths. The model highlights how the new labor requirements faced by employers arising out of the technological innovations associated with the British Industrial Revolution increased the demand for child labor.
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Publication information: Book title: Hard at Work in Factories and Mines:The Economics of Child Labor during the British Industrial Revolution. Contributors: Carolyn Tuttle - Author. Publisher: Westview Press. Place of publication: Boulder, CO. Publication year: 1999. Page number: 71.