Abstract: Using a data set of about 1,000 Japanese contracts, I study the relationships among urban labor markets, peasant employment contracts, and parental control over work-age children From 1600 to the mid-18th century, the use of contracts for the sale, pledge, or long-term employment of a large nonagricultural labor market. Because this market (with its informal, at-will contractual terms) made it profitable for so many children to abscond, it threatened any property right that parents may once have had in their children's work. And absent that property right, most employers no longer offered long-term contracts on attractive terms. By making it profitable for dissatisfied children to abscond, this new labor market also reduced the control that parents had over their children. Indirectly to be sure, it shaped relations within the family and constrained domestic exploitation as well.