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Ability, parental background and educational policy: empirical evidence from a social experiment

  • Costas Meghir


    (Institute for Fiscal Studies and Yale University)

  • Mårten Palme


    (Institute for Fiscal Studies and University of Stockholm)

Following the great expansion of secondary education in the United States between 1910 and 1940, Sweden was one of the first Western European countries to attempt such an expansion by increasing the years of compulsory schooling and and improving access to academic type education by abolishing early selection. The reform was preceded by a large-scale area based social experiment where 25% of the country's municipalities were assigned to the reform. We use this assignment, together with rich individual data to evaluate this major educational intervention. Our key findings are that this reform increased the educational attainment of individuals with unskilled fathers. In addition it caused significant and large increases in the earnings of those with unskilled fathers and above median ability.

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Paper provided by Institute for Fiscal Studies in its series IFS Working Papers with number W03/05.

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Length: 28 pp
Date of creation: Apr 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ifs:ifsewp:03/05
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  1. Card, David, 2001. "Estimating the Return to Schooling: Progress on Some Persistent Econometric Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(5), pages 1127-60, September.
  2. Lang, Kevin & Kropp, David, 1986. "Human Capital versus Sorting: The Effects of Compulsory Attendance Laws," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(3), pages 609-24, August.
  3. James J. Heckman, 2000. "Policies to Foster Human Capital," JCPR Working Papers 154, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  4. Card, David, 1999. "The causal effect of education on earnings," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 30, pages 1801-1863 Elsevier.
  5. Philip Oreopoulos, 2003. "Do Dropouts Drop Out Too Soon? Evidence from Changes in School-Leaving Laws," Working Papers oreo-03-01, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  6. Horowitz, Joel L., 1999. "The Bootstrap," Working Papers 99-10, University of Iowa, Department of Economics.
  7. Harmon, Colm & Walker, Ian, 1995. "Estimates of the Economic Return to Schooling for the United Kingdom," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1278-86, December.
  8. Margo, Robert A. & Aldrich Finegan, T., 1996. "Compulsory schooling legislation and school attendance in turn-of-the century America: A 'natural experiment' approach," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 103-110, October.
  9. Blackburn, McKinley L & Neumark, David, 1995. "Are OLS Estimates of the Return to Schooling Biased Downward? Another Look," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(2), pages 217-30, May.
  10. Eric A. Hanushek, 2002. "Publicly Provided Education," NBER Working Papers 8799, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Heckman, James J & Ichimura, Hidehiko & Todd, Petra, 1998. "Matching as an Econometric Evaluation Estimator," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(2), pages 261-94, April.
  12. Moulton, Brent R., 1986. "Random group effects and the precision of regression estimates," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 385-397, August.
  13. Lang, Kevin, 1993. "Ability Bias, Discount Rate Bias and the Return to Education," MPRA Paper 24651, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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