‘Everyone in School’: The Effects of Compulsory Schooling Age on Drop-out and Completion Rates

In this paper, we analyse the effect of the Berlinguer reform that was implemented in Italy in 1999 and increased the compulsory school from eight to nine years. As a result of the reform, students had to attend school until age 15 instead of age 14 and thus had to attend at least one year of upper secondary school (for students with a regular career). Using data from Italian Labour Force Surveys (LFS) (1993-2010) and following a counterfactual approach, applying counterfactual time series and segmented regressions, we evaluate the effect of the Berlinguer reform on attendance and graduation rates. The results show that the expansion of compulsory schooling leads to staying in school for a larger share of 16-year-olds, especially those who are judged to be more at risk of dropping out: students with less-educated parents and those with parents having a low occupational level. By age 17, however, part of the effect has already vanished, and no effects are found on graduation rates, even among at-risk youths. The compulsory schooling policy may have been more effective in adjusting the legislation to extant student behaviours than in producing relevant changes in educational decisions.

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Publication number: Working Paper 2017-05
Date: 11/2017
JEL Classification: D04, I24, I28
  • Compulsory schooling,
  • Educational reform,
  • Drop-out,
  • Graduation,
  • Italy