Compulsory Schooling Laws and Public Examination Reforms: Labour and Non-Labour Market Outcomes

Jonathan James
University of Essex, UK

This paper uses educational reforms that took place last over the last 60 years in the UK by exploiting variation in the timing of the reforms over different regions to examine the causal effect of compulsory schooling law changes, and various changes to the public examination systems on a range of labour and non-labour market outcomes. Using the General Household Survey for Britain and the Continuous Household Survey for Northern Ireland and employing a regression discontinuity design and difference-in-difference methods I find that compulsory schooling law changes have a greater impact than changes to the examination system. In summary, compulsory schooling laws are an important factor in gaining any qualifications, this is in contrast to the introduction of less academic examinations. Further, I find that the raising of the compulsory schooling leaving age to 15 reduced smoking at an early age and the increase to 16 reduced the probability of a teenage birth and an early marriage, although this had no impact on overall fertility or final marriage behaviour. Further, this is extended by looking at the effects that this reform had on the next generation using the National Study of Health and Growth. In terms of child health, evidence is found of a causal effect of maternal education on increased birth weight, gestation period, and some other health outcomes for adolescent children. This paper provides further evidence on the importance of years of schooling and shows that changes to the content of education has little impact.

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