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Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?

  • Joshua D. Angrist
  • Alan B. Krueger

This paper presents evidence showing that individuals' season of birth is related to their educational attainment because of the combined effects of school start age policy and compulsory school attendance laws. In most school districts, individuals born in the beginning of the year start school at a slightly older age, and therefore are eligible to drop out of school after completing fewer years of schooling than individuals born near the end of the year. Our estimates suggest that as many as 25 percent of potential dropouts remain in school because of compulsory schooling laws. We estimate the impact of compulsory schooling on earnings by using quarter of birth as an instrumental variable for education in an earnings equation. This provides a valid identification strategy because date of birth is unlikely to be correlated with omitted earnings determinants. The instrumental variables estimate of the rate of return to education is remarkably close to the ordinary least squares estimate, suggesting that there is little ability bias in conventional estimates of the return to education. The results also imply that individuals who are compelled to attend school longer than they desire by compulsory schooling laws reap a substantial return for their extra schooling.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w3572.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 3572.

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Date of creation: Dec 1990
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Publication status: published as Angrist, Joshua D & Krueger, Alan B, 1991. "Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. 106(4), pages 979-1014, November.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3572
Note: LS
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  1. Willis, Robert J., 1987. "Wage determinants: A survey and reinterpretation of human capital earnings functions," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & R. Layard (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 10, pages 525-602 Elsevier.
  2. Spence, A Michael, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-74, August.
  3. Ronald G. Ehrenberg & Alan J. Marcus, 1982. "Minimum Wages and Teenagers' Enrollment-Employment Outcomes: A Multinomial Logit Model," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 17(1), pages 39-58.
  4. K. Newey, Whitney, 1985. "Generalized method of moments specification testing," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 229-256, September.
  5. Griliches, Zvi, 1977. "Estimating the Returns to Schooling: Some Econometric Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(1), pages 1-22, January.
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