Child Labor Laws as Eugenics Policy

Source:  Dr. Frank a Fetter, Cornell University, in a discussion of “Western Civilization and the Birth-Rate”, as found in The American Journal of Sociology, 1907, page 619.

The paper mentions but one recent social change which tends definitely and positively to reduce the families of the unskilled classes, namely, child-labor legislation. Such laws as these incidentally and unintentionally have operated in that way. It is to the extension of such purposeful regulative measures that we must look for a remedy and not to the “economic harmonies.” The whole structure of civilization is in a sense artificial, and the whole social process of limiting the physiologically possible birth-rate, is artificial. Its regulation in the future must be by artificial social agencies consciously chosen. Unless effective means are found to check the degeneration of the race, the noontide of humanity’s greatness is nigh, if not already passed. Our optimism must be based, not upon laisses faire, but upon the vigorous application of science, humanity, and legislative art to the solution of the problem. Great changes of thought are impending, and these will include the elimination of the unfit, the establishment of qualifications for marriage, the education of parents, and the conscious improvement of the race. Under the touch of the new science of eugenics, many of our most perplexing social problems will disappear, making possible that better democracy which we are just beginning to seek.

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