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School Entry, Compulsory Schooling, and Human Capital Accumulation: Evidence from Michigan

Steven W. Hemelt and Rachel B. Rosen


Extant research on school entry and compulsory schooling laws finds that these policies increase the high school graduation rate of relatively younger students, but weaken their academic performance in early grades. In this paper, we explore the evolution of postsecondary impacts of the interaction of school entry and compulsory schooling laws in Michigan. We employ a regression-discontinuity (RD) design using longitudinal administrative data to examine effects on high school performance, college enrollment, choice, and persistence. On average, we find that children eligible to start school at a relatively younger age are more likely to complete high school, but underperform while enrolled, compared to their counterparts eligible to start school at a relatively older age. In turn, these students are 2 percentage points more likely to first attend a two-year college and enroll in fewer total postsecondary semesters, relative to their older counterparts. We explore heterogeneity in these effects across subgroups of students defined by gender and poverty status. For example, we illustrate that the increase in the high school graduation rate of relatively younger students attributable to the combination of school entry and compulsory schooling laws is driven entirely by impacts on economically disadvantaged students.

Funding statement: The research reported here was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grants R305B110001 and R305E100008 to the University of Michigan.


The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) or the U.S. Department of Education. This research used data structured and maintained by the Michigan Consortium for Educational Research (MCER). MCER data are modified for analysis purposes using rules governed by MCER and are not identical to data collected and maintained by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) and/or Michigan’s Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI). Results, information, and opinions solely represent the analysis, information, and opinions of the author(s) and are not endorsed by, nor do they reflect the views or positions of, grantors, MDE and CEPI or any employee thereof. We are grateful for helpful comments and suggestions from Susan Dynarski, Eric Eide, Brian Jacob, and numerous seminar participants at the University of Michigan and the Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP) 2014 meetings in San Antonio, TX. All errors are our own.


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Published Online: 2016-7-7
Published in Print: 2016-10-1

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