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Compulsory School Attendance: What Research Says and What It Means for State Policy

Sarah Whitfield and Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst

During his 2012 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama offered several recommendations on education policy, including one specifying that all states increase the age of compulsory school attendance to 18. Approximately 25 percent of public school students in the U.S. don’t obtain a regular high school diploma, a tragedy for them and a heavy burden for the nation and the communities and states in which they live. Certainly, America needs to address this problem, but is raising the compulsory school attendance (CSA) age a viable solution?

In a new paper, Russ Whitehurst and Sarah Whitfield perform original analysis to investigate if CSA ages 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:

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