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Were Compulsory Attendance and Child Labor Laws Effective? An Analysis from 1915 to 1939

  • Lleras-Muney, Adriana
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    Were compulsory attendance and child labor laws responsible for the incredible growth in secondary schooling from 1915 to 1939? Using 1960 census data, I find that legally requiring children to attend school for 1 more year, by increasing the age required for a work permit or lowering the entrance age, increased educational attainment by about 5 percent. The effect was similar for white males and females, but there was no effect for blacks. Continuation school laws that required working children to attend school on a part-time basis were effective for white males only. These laws increased the education only of those in the lower percentiles of the education distribution, thereby decreasing education inequality, perhaps by as much as 15 percent. States with higher levels of wealth, higher percentage of immigrants, or lower percentage of blacks were more likely to pass stringent laws. The results also suggest that these laws were not endogenous. Copyright 2002 by the University of Chicago.

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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/340393
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    Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Law & Economics.

    Volume (Year): 45 (2002)
    Issue (Month): 2 (October)
    Pages: 401-35

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    Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:45:y:2002:i:2:p:401-35
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLE/

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    1. Chiswick, Barry R, 1969. "Minimum Schooling Legislation and the Cross-Sectional Distribution of Income," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 79(315), pages 495-507, September.
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    3. Joshua D. Angrist & Alan B. Krueger, 1990. "Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?," NBER Working Papers 3572, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    6. David Card & Alan B. Krueger, 1992. "School Quality and Black-White Relative Earnings: A Direct Assessment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 151-200.
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    8. Kevin Lang & David Kropp, 1986. "Human Capital Versus Sorting: The Effects of Compulsory Attendance Laws," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 101(3), pages 609-624.
    9. David Card & Alan Krueger, 1996. "School Resources and Student Outcomes: An Overview of the Literature and New Evidence from North and South Carolina," NBER Working Papers 5708, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
    11. Robert A. Margo & T. Aldrich Finegan, 1996. "Compulsory Schooling Legislation and School Attendance in Turn-of-the-Century America: A "Natural Experiment" Approach," NBER Historical Working Papers 0089, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Moehling, Carolyn M., 1999. "State Child Labor Laws and the Decline of Child Labor," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 72-106, January.
    13. Welch, Finis, 1973. "Black-White Differences in Returns to Schooling," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(5), pages 893-907, December.
    14. Landes, William M. & Solmon, Lewis C., 1972. "Compulsory Schooling Legislation: An Economic Analysis of Law and Social Change in the Nineteenth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 32(01), pages 54-91, March.
    15. David Card & Alan Krueger, 1996. "School Resources and Student Outcomes: An Overview of the Literature and New Evidence from North and South Carolina," Working Papers 745, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
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