Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 29, Issue 3, pp 911–956 | Cite as

Transforming lives: the impact of compulsory schooling on hope and happiness

  • Bahadır DursunEmail author
  • Resul Cesur
Original Paper


This is the first article examining the causal impact of mandatory extended primary schooling on happiness (sense of well-being) of young adults. We rely on a law change that raised compulsory schooling from 5 to 8 years in Turkey to address the endogeneity of education to happiness. Our study shows that, for females, earning at least a middle school diploma increases the likelihood of being happy and the probability of being satisfied with various life domains. Descriptive tests suggest that being hopeful about one’s own future well-being partly explains the relationship between women’s schooling and happiness. For males, although relatively imprecisely estimated, we find evidence that earning at least a middle school degree results in a decline in subjective well-being. Supplemental analysis develops evidence consistent with the view that an imbalance between aspirations and attainments, flowing from extended primary schooling, may be the reason behind this counterintuitive finding among men.


Happiness Subjective well-being Education 

JEL classification

I21 I28 I31 



We thank Jillian Carr, Fred Carstensen, Briggs Depew, Naci Mocan, Robert Newman, and seminar participants at the Louisiana State University, 2015 Southern Economic Association Meetings, and anonymous referees for their comments and suggestions. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance and help of Şebnem Beşe Canpolat, Metin Aytaç, Salim Gürbüz, and the Demographic Statistics Department of the Turkish Statistical Institute with the data.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  2. 2.Finance DepartmentUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA

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