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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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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Keywords

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