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Do Schooling Laws Matter? Evidence from the Introduction of Compulsory Attendance Laws in the United States

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  • Karen Clay
  • Jeff Lingwall
  • Melvin Stephens, Jr.

Abstract

This paper examines the effects of introducing compulsory attendance laws on the schooling of U.S. children for three overlapping time periods: 1880-1927, 1890-1927, and 1898-1927. The previous literature finds little effect of the laws, which is somewhat surprising given that the passage of these laws coincided with rising attendance. Using administrative panel data, this paper finds that laws passed after 1880 had significant effects on enrollment and attendance. Laws passed after 1890, for which both administrative and retrospective census data are available, had significant effects on enrollment, attendance, and educational outcomes. In both cases, the timing of increases in enrollment and attendance is consistent with a causal effect of the laws. For men in the 1898-1927 period who reported positive wage income in the 1940 census, compulsory attendance laws increased schooling and wage income. The OLS estimates of the return to a year of schooling are 8 percent and the IV estimates are 11 to 14 percent.

Suggested Citation

  • Karen Clay & Jeff Lingwall & Melvin Stephens, Jr., 2012. "Do Schooling Laws Matter? Evidence from the Introduction of Compulsory Attendance Laws in the United States," NBER Working Papers 18477, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18477 Note: DAE LS
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:esx:essedp:763 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Melvin Stephens Jr. & Dou-Yan Yang, 2014. "Compulsory Education and the Benefits of Schooling," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(6), pages 1777-1792, June.
    3. Philip J. Cook & Songman Kang, 2013. "Birthdays, Schooling, and Crime: New Evidence on the Dropout-Crime Nexus," NBER Working Papers 18791, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Campaniello, N & Gray, R & Mastrobuoni, G, 2015. "Returns to Education and Experience in Criminal Organizations: Evidence from the Italian-American Mafia," Economics Discussion Papers 13795, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
    5. Campaniello, Nadia & Gray, Rowena & Mastrobuoni, Giovanni, 2016. "Returns to education in criminal organizations: Did going to college help Michael Corleone?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 242-258.
    6. Gabriele Cappelli, 2016. "Escaping from a human capital trap? Italy's regions and the move to centralized primary schooling, 1861–1936," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(1), pages 46-65.
    7. Gabriele Cappelli, 2013. "Escaping from a human capital trap? Italy’s regions and the move to centralized primary schooling, 1861 - 1936," Department of Economics University of Siena 688, Department of Economics, University of Siena.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • N21 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N22 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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