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Do Dropouts Drop Out Too Soon? Evidence from Changes in School-Leaving Laws

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  • Philip Oreopoulos

Abstract

his paper investigates if decisions to drop out of high school are sub-optimal, and whether students benefit from policies, such as a minimum school leaving age, that oblige them to finish school beyond the time they choose on their own. I use changes in minimum school-leaving laws in Great Britain and Ireland, which were remarkably influential, to measure pecuniary and non-pecuniary gains from education. I find, similar to previous studies, students compelled to take an extra year of schooling experienced an average increase of 12 percent in annual earnings. I also find significant effects from education on health, leisure and labor activities, and subjective measures of well-being, which hold up against a wide array of specification checks. Comparing these estimates with intertemporal models of educational choice, the main conclusion of this paper is that it is very difficult to justify an optimal decision to drop out early without the presence of time inconsistent preferences, misguided expectations, or disutility from identifying with a social group that considers dropping out the norm. To prefer dropping out early, the one-year cost from attending school would have to exceed a dropout s maximum lifetime annual earnings by a factor of about six.

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  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:oreo-03-01
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    Cited by:

    1. Grant Johnston, 2004. "Healthy, wealthy and wise? A review of the wider benefits of education," Treasury Working Paper Series 04/04, New Zealand Treasury.
    2. Oosterbeek, Hessel & Webbink, Dinand, 2007. "Wage effects of an extra year of basic vocational education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 408-419, August.
    3. Andrea Doneschi & Rossana Patron, 2011. "Assessing incentives and risks in training decisions. A methodological note applied to the Uruguayan case," Documentos de Trabajo (working papers) 1511, Department of Economics - dECON.
    4. Dinand Webbink, 2007. "Returns to University Education: Evidence from a Dutch Institutional Reform," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 74(293), pages 113-134, February.
    5. Jörn-Steffen Pischke & Till von Wachter, 2008. "Zero Returns to Compulsory Schooling in Germany: Evidence and Interpretation," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(3), pages 592-598, August.
    6. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereux & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2005. "Why the Apple Doesn't Fall Far: Understanding Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 437-449, March.
    7. Bruno Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2005. "Happiness Research: State and Prospects," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 63(2), pages 207-228.
    8. Philip Oreopoulos, 2006. "Estimating Average and Local Average Treatment Effects of Education when Compulsory Schooling Laws Really Matter," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 152-175, March.
    9. Sandra E. Black & Paul J. Devereaux & Kjell Salvanes, 2004. "Fast Times at Ridgemont High? The Effect of Compulsory Schooling Laws on Teenage Births," NBER Working Papers 10911, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. repec:bla:rdevec:v:21:y:2017:i:2:p:321-352 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Kit-Chun Lam & Pak-Wai Liu, 2014. "Socio-Economic Inequalities in Happiness in China and U.S," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 116(2), pages 509-533, April.
    12. Milligan, Kevin & Moretti, Enrico & Oreopoulos, Philip, 2004. "Does education improve citizenship? Evidence from the United States and the United Kingdom," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1667-1695, August.
    13. Daniel Fairchild, 2004. "Does the minimum wage help the poor?," Forum for Social Economics, Springer;The Association for Social Economics, vol. 34(1), pages 31-42, September.
    14. Philip Oreopoulos & Marianne E. Page, 2006. "The Intergenerational Effects of Compulsory Schooling," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(4), pages 729-760, October.
    15. Costas Meghir & Mårten Palme, 2003. "Ability, parental background and educational policy: empirical evidence from a social experiment," IFS Working Papers W03/05, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    16. Di Tella, Rafael & Haisken-De New, John & MacCulloch, Robert, 2010. "Happiness adaptation to income and to status in an individual panel," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 834-852, December.
    17. Philip Oreopoulos & Marianne E. Page & Ann Huff Stevens, 2003. "Does Human Capital Transfer from Parent to Child? The Intergenerational Effects of Compulsory Schooling," NBER Working Papers 10164, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Alois Stutzer & Bruno S. Frey, 2004. "Reported Subjective Well-Being: A Challenge for Economic Theory and Economic Policy," Schmollers Jahrbuch : Journal of Applied Social Science Studies / Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 124(2), pages 191-231.
    19. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger, 2006. "Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 3-24, Winter.
    20. Felgueroso, Florentino & Gutiérrez-Domenech, María & Jiménez Martín, Sergi, 2013. "¿Por qué el abandono escolar se ha mantenido tan elevado en España en las últimas dos décadas? El papel de la Ley de Educación (LOGSE)," Economic Reports 02-2013, FEDEA.
    21. Black, Sandra & Devereux, Paul J. & Salvanes, Kjell G, 2003. "Why the Apple Doesn't Fall: Understanding Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital," CEPR Discussion Papers 4150, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    22. Philip Oreopoulos, 2003. "Do Dropouts Drop Out Too Soon? International Evidence From Changes in School-Leaving Laws," NBER Working Papers 10155, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    23. Kevin Milligan & Enrico Moretti & Philip Oreopoulos, 2003. "Does Education Improve Citizenship? Evidence from the U.S. and the U.K," NBER Working Papers 9584, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    Keywords

    social returns to education; identity; happiness; compulsory school laws;

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