If results from previous centuries hold true, forcing students to stay in school longer could be a way to increase educational equality, according to a report published this month in the online version of the journal Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis.
University of Kansas researcher Emily Rauscher looked at U.S. Census data to determine the impact of compulsory-attendance laws passed in the United States between 1852 and 1918 on school attendance and educational attainment by class and race. During this period, all states introduced laws requiring students to attend school until a certain age—typically from ages 8 to 14.
Ms. Rauscher discovered that, in northern states, where the impact was greatest, the gap in school attendance shrank by 25 percent between rich and poor students and by 30 percent between white and nonwhite students. Racial gaps in educational attainment (as measured by highest grade completed) also narrowed. When there were no attendance requirements, white women completed, on average, 3.4 more grades than nonwhite women. With the laws in place, white women’s advantage fell to 2.7 grades.
A version of this article appeared in the May 07, 2014 edition of Education Week as School-Attendance Laws Linked To Rises in Educational Equity