Forced to be Rich? Returns to Compulsory Schooling in Britain


  • The authors acknowledge the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for granting access to the NESPD and the ONS and the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS) for access to the General Household Survey data. Devereux gratefully acknowledges financial support from the National Science Foundation and the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences. We thank Phil Oreopoulos for access to his STATA code. We also thank Sandra Black, Kanika Kapur and Phil Oreopoulos for helpful comments.


Do students benefit from compulsory schooling? In an important article, Oreopoulos (2006) studied the 1947 British compulsory schooling law change and found large returns to schooling of about 15% using the General Household Survey (GHS). Re-analysing this dataset, we find much smaller returns of about 3% on average with no evidence of any positive return for women and a return for men of 4–7%. Additionally, we utilise the New Earnings Survey Panel Data-set (NESPD) that has earnings information superior to that in the GHS and find similar estimates: zero returns for women and returns of 3 to 4% for men.