By Selim Gulesci, Erik Meyersson
Summary and Key Findings
We explore a change in compulsory schooling laws, as part of a large-scale project of secular modernization in Turkey, to estimate the causal effects of education on religiosity and women’s empowerment. A new law implemented in 1998 resulted in individuals born after a specific date to be more likely to complete at least 8 years of schooling while those born earlier could drop out after 5 years. This allows the implementation of a Regression Discontinuity (RD) Design and the estimation of meaningful causal estimates of schooling. We show that the reform resulted in a one-year increase in years of schooling on average among women. Over a period of ten years, this education increase resulted in women reporting lower levels of religiosity, greater decision rights over marriage and contraception, as well as higher household durables consumption. In contrast, we document generally small and insignificant average effects of education on labor force participation, timing of marriage and early fertility. These effects are heterogeneous, depending on measures for the severity of constraints to educational participation. Our findings demonstrate that education may empower women across a wide spectrum of a Muslim society, yet depending on pre-reform constraints to participation, its effects may not be strong enough to fully overcome participation constraints in subsequent voluntary education and the labor force.