Pierre Mouganie has a new paper:
In 1997, the French government put into effect a law that permanently exempted young French male citizens born after Jan 1, 1979 from mandatory military service while still requiring those born before that cutoff date to serve. This paper uses a regression discontinuity design to identify the effect of peacetime conscription on education and labor market outcomes. Results indicate that conscription eligibility induces a significant increase in years of education, which is consistent with conscription avoidance behavior. However, this increased education does not result in either an increase in graduation rates, or in employment and wages. Additional evidence shows conscription has no direct effect on earnings, suggesting that the returns to education induced by this policy was zero.
You should note of course that the “return to education you wish to do for non-draft-avoiding reasons” still may be positive or strongly positive. Nonetheless this is an object lesson in the point that the goal is not to increase educational attainment per se, but rather good outcomes probably require “education plus some of the prerequisites and complements of education.” The large number of unemployed engineers in some of the Arabic countries illustrate a related point.
For the pointer I thank the excellent Kevin Lewis.