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 phenomenom 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, eflecting the need of education in an increasingly globalized world
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