In a new Brookings paper, Russ Whitehurst and Sarah Whitfield perform original analysis to investigate if compulsory school attendance (CSA) ages in the U.S. actually affect graduation rates. Their data show that states with higher CSA ages do not have higher high school graduation rates than states with lower CSA ages. Other key findings include:
- The costs of raising the CSA age for additional teachers and classrooms are likely to be minimal because compliance with a higher CSA age will be low.
- Raising the CSA age does little to address the root causes of high dropout rates and is unlikely to produce increases in high school graduation rates that will be noticeable to state policymakers and taxpayers.
- There is no consistent relationship between the leniency in the laws governing the CSA age and rates of school attendance.
- Raising the CSA age may induce some portion of the population of eventual school dropouts to stay in school a few weeks or months longer in order to reach the legal age at which they can leave school. They may benefit as a result but not nearly so much as they would if they persisted until graduation.