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Compulsory Education and the Benefits of Schooling

Melvin Stephens, Jr., Dou-Yan Yang

NBER Working Paper No. 19369
Issued in August 2013
NBER Program(s):Economics of Education, Labor Studies

Causal estimates of the benefits of increased schooling using U.S. state schooling laws as instruments typically rely on specifications which assume common trends across states in the factors affecting different birth cohorts. Differential changes across states during this period, such as relative school quality improvements, suggest that this assumption may fail to hold. Across a number of outcomes including wages, unemployment, and divorce, we find that statistically significant causal estimates become insignificant and, in many instances, wrong-signed when allowing year of birth effects to vary across regions.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19369

Published: Melvin Stephens Jr. & Dou-Yan Yang, 2014. "Compulsory Education and the Benefits of Schooling," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(6), pages 1777-92, June. citation courtesy of

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