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CEE/Education and skills discussion paper

The Convergence of Compulsory Schooling in Western Europe: 1950-2000


This paper examines the expansion of compulsory schooling in fifteen Western European countries over the period 1950-2000. We show that a convergence process of mandatory years of schooling has occurred across these countries since 1950. We argue that the major driver of this phenomenon is the existence of decreasing aggregate returns to education that have limited the extension of compulsory schooling. Then we test whether convergence still holds when confronted with other explanations described in the literature, which are respectively based on technology and trade, institutions, and the budget constraint of governments. Conditional convergence does hold and we find that openness has been another robust determinant of compulsory years of schooling, reflecting the need of education in an increasingly globalized world.


Fabrice Murtin and Martina Viarengo

November 2008     Paper Number CEEDP0095

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This CEE/Education and skills discussion paper is published under the centre's Education and skills programme, Education and skills programme.