This paper examines the expansion of compulsory schooling in fifteen Western European countries over 1950-2000. We show that a convergence process 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 holds when confronted with other explanations described in the literature. Conditional convergence does hold and we find that openness has been another significant determinant of compulsory years of schooling, reflecting the need of a skilled labour force in an increasingly globalized world
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