Originally printed in the Portland Oregonian and reprinted in the Hickory Daily Record, October 4, 1922
Child Labor Decreasing
With a million children between the ages of 10 and 15 engaged in gainful labor, as is shown by the federal census of 1920, just published, the materialism that permits such a condition is strong. Yet it encourages us somewhat to note that the figure indicates a very considerable improvement by comparison with 1910, when it was about double the present number and also that the decline as to the most hazardous labor is the most pronounced of all. One child in every 12 between the ages mentioned is a wage earner of sorts but in fairness to our social conscience it ought to be added that only 185,337 of the million are employed in manufacturing enterprises and that of these there are only 7,191 working in mines.
The word “only” is distinctly a relative term. The number is high enough, but we obtain an impression of progress from the fact that a decade ago one child in five of the specified ages was gainfully at work, that 268,932(?) were employed at manufacturing and 18,000 were occupied in mine work. The number classified under the heading “personal service” decreased in the same period from 112,071 to 54,006.
How far the decrease may have been due to the circumstances that the 1920 census was taken in January, while that of the 1910 was made in April, there is probably no means of determining exactly, but this may have had some effect owing to the difference in conditions governing outdoor work. This would have shown most conspicuously in agriculture—winter being the time of cessation of field work—and it is here that child labor would seem to be the least objectionable, if there is any defense for it at all.
So it would appear that there has been a distinct improvement in 10 years—which indicates that we may expect a further betterment in the next 10. For public sentiment is likely to need nothing more than a demonstration of the benefits of the more enlightened way to be enlisted solidly on the side of the right.