London School of Economics Centre for the Economics of Education LSE
Centre for the Economics of Education  (CEE)

Abstract for:

A Researcher's Guide to the Swedish Compulsory School Reform

Helena  Holmlund,  February 2008
Paper No' CEEDP0087: | Full paper (pdf)
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Keywords: educational reform; instrumental variables

JEL Classification: I2

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This Paper is published under the following series: CEE Discussion Papers
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When studying different types of returns to education, educational reforms are commonly used in the economics literature as a source of exogenous variation in education. The Swedish compulsory school reform is one example; the reform extended compulsory education throughout the country, in different municipalities at different points in time. Such variation across cohorts and regions can be used in a differences-in-differences framework, in order to estimate causal effects of education. This paper provides a guide to researchers who consider using the Swedish reform in an empirical analysis: I present a description and background of the reform, provide some baseline results, a reliability analysis of the reform coding, a discussion of whether the reform is a valid instrument, and comment on the interpretation of IV estimates of returns to schooling. The main conclusions are the following: i) a reliability analysis of the reform coding finds a lower bound reliability estimate of 0.66-0.91; ii) the reform indeed raised educational attainment, more so for boys than for girls, and iii) with careful consideration of region-specific trends, the reform can be considered a valid instrument for education.