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The Humphrey School of Public Affairs is the University of
Minnesota's school of policy and planning.

Professor Deborah Levison of the Humphrey Institute

Deborah Levison


Phone: 612-624-3540
Office: 266 Humphrey School

Areas of Expertise

Child labor and education in poor countries; population studies; gender issues; labor economics; child care


Deborah Levison is an economist and demographer. She earned a doctorate in economics from the University of Michigan, where she also trained at the Population Studies Center. She spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University’s Economic Growth Center before joining the University of Minnesota in 1992. She is a Professor at the University’s Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, where she has received multiple teaching awards. Her sabbatical years have been spent at the International Labour Organization, Geneva, Switzerland (2001-2002) and as a technical advisor to the Whole Village Project in Tanzania (2009-2010).
Levison’s studies the work and schooling of children in poor countries, typically via quantitative analysis of survey data; recent projects also include qualitative approaches. Recent projects have focused on the effect of Egyptian girls’ household work on their school attendance; on child domestic servants in Latin America; and on children in risky work in Brazil. Her co-authored book, Rights and Wrongs of Children’s Work (2010), explores the place of work in children’s lives and development.  Other research areas include child care and women’s employment. Levison is one of the investigators on the IPUMS-International project (, which is dedicated to collecting, archiving, and distributing census data from around the world.

Rights and Wrongs of Children’s Work, authored by an interdisciplinary team of experts, incorporates recent theoretical advances and experiences to explore the place of labor in children’s lives and development.

This groundbreaking book considers international policies governing children’s work and the complexity of assessing the various effects of their work. The authors question current child labor policies and interventions, which, even though pursued with the best intentions, too often fail to protect children against harm or promote their access to education and other opportunities for decent futures. They argue for the need to re-think the assumptions that underlie current policies on the basis of empirical evidence, and they recommend new approaches to advance working children’s well-being and guarantee their human rights.

Rights and Wrongs of Children’s Work
condemns the exploitation and abuse of child workers and supports the right of all children to the best quality, free education that society can afford. At the same time, the authors recognize the value, and sometimes the necessity, of work in growing up, and the reality that a “workless” childhood, without responsibilities, is not good preparation for adult life in any environment.

Levison has been a co-Principal Investigator on the IPUMS-International Project since its inception.  Based at the Minnesota Population Center of the University of Minnesota, IPUMSi collects and distributes census microdata from around the world – for free – for research purposes.

Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

Selected Writings

Courses Taught

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For syllabi for the current or upcoming semester, please visit the University of Minnesota's Course Guide and look for the syllabus icon. If the syllabus is not there, contact the instructor directly. Syllabi are available in alternative formats upon request. Please contact Stacey Grimes at or 612-626-1329 for assistance.

Summer 2015
  • PA 8991 — Independent Study
Fall 2015
  • PA 5031 — Empirical Analysis
  • PA 5920 — Skills Workshop
  • PA 8991 — Independent Study

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