Vive La Revolution! Long Term Returns of 1968 to the Angry Students. CEE DP 49Report as inadecuate

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Centre for the Economics of Education (NJ1)

The student revolt of May 1968 led to chaos across France, temporarily shaking the economic and political establishment. The crisis was unanticipated, unpredictable and short-lived. The famous events coincided with the period in which examinations are undertaken. In the university context, exams became a central aspect of the bargaining process between students and the authorities with the former successfully bargaining for "light-touch" exams "to avoid harming students who have spent a lot of time struggling for a better university". The general chaos and student lobbying led to the abandonment of normal exam procedures throughout the higher education system. For example, the important examination taken for the baccalaureate (success at which guarantees entry to university) only involved oral tests. As a result, the pass rate for various qualifications increased enormously in that one year. In this report, the authors show that the lowering of thresholds had important consequences for students at an early (and highly selective) stage of the higher education system. The events enabled a significant proportion of students born between 1947 and 1950 (particularly in 1948 and 1949) to pursue more years of higher education than would otherwise have been possible. They compare outcomes for cohorts affected by the relaxation of the examinations with cohorts that were too young or too old at this time. There is a wage premium of 2-3 percent for the most affected cohorts and an increased probability of achieving a high-status occupational position. They also show that persons from a middle-class family background were more likely to be among the "marginal students", and hence those for whom the effects of easier examinations are particularly evident. Finally, they show that returns were transmitted to the next generation on account of the relationship between parental education and that of their children. (Contains 4 figures, 7 tables and 27 footnotes.)

Descriptors: Foreign Countries, Activism, Conflict, College Students, Higher Education, Educational History, College Entrance Examinations, Outcomes of Education, Education Work Relationship, Income, Fathers, Parent Background, Educational Attainment, Human Capital, Middle Class, Cohort Analysis

Centre for the Economics of Education. London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London, WC2A 2AE, UK. Tel: +44-20-7955-7673; Fax: +44-20-7955-7595; e-mail: cee[at]; Web site:

Author: Maurin, Eric; McNally, Sandra


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