This paper assesses whether additional schooling has lasting causal effects on cognitive function, and explores the role of occupation type in shaping these effects. Exploiting quasi-experimental variation from the 1972 raising of the school leaving age in England and Wales, an additional year of schooling improves working memory by one- to two-thirds of a standard deviation. Limited evidence was detected for causal effects on verbal fluency and numeric ability. Analyses of the underlying mechanisms show occupation can explain up to about one-fifth of schooling’s effects on memory. However these figures are imprecisely estimated, and the role of occupation remains an area for further study.
Older versions of this working paper were circulated as: "Does schooling have lasting effects on cognitive function? Evidence from compulsory schooling laws"
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