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Compulsory Schooling Legislation and School Attendance in Turn-of-the-Century America: A "Natural Experiment" Approach

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  • Robert A. Margo
  • T. Aldrich Finegan

Abstract

Recent research by Joshua Angrist and Alan Krueger has used information on exact dates of birth in the 1960 to 1980 federal censuses to study the impact of compulsory schooling laws on school attendance. This paper modifies their methodology to analyze similar data in the 1900 federal census to measure the impact of turn-of-the-century compulsory schooling laws. Using data on 14-year olds from the 1900 census public use microdata sample we compare attendance rates of children born after January 1, 1900 with those born before, across states with and without compulsory schooling laws. In states that combined school-leaving with child labor laws, we find that compulsion significantly raised attendance rates.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberhi:0089 Note: DAE
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    1. Jeremy Atack & Fred Bateman, 1991. "Whom Did Protective Legislation Protect? Evidence From 1880," NBER Historical Working Papers 0033, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Joshua D. Angrist & Alan B. Keueger, 1991. "Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(4), pages 979-1014.
    3. 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.
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    JEL classification:

    • N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913

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