Alarmed by child labor in factories and mills, Progressive-era reformers criticized immigrants and immigrant cultures for sanctioning exploitation of their young. Neither qualitative nor quantitative appraisals find much evidence that ethnicity had any important effect on the likelihood that a child would work. Relative and absolute poverty were more important influences. Under all conditions, black children were much more likely to work. The use of children as workers, customary in all rural societies including that of the American family farm, reappeared in industrial settings and then quickly declined. Higher male earnings, technological shifts, and changes in law and culture compelled children to become students instead of wage earners.

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