September 2019

IZA DP No. 12645: Behind the Veil: The Effect of Banning the Islamic Veil in Schools

published in: Economic Policy, 2023, 38 (113), 63-98

Immigration from Muslim countries is a source of tensions in many Western countries. Several countries have adopted regulations restricting religious expression and emphasizing the neutrality of the public sphere. We explore the effect of the most emblematic of these regulations: the prohibition of Islamic veils in French schools. In September 1994, a circular from the French Ministry of Education asked teachers and principals to ban Islamic veils in public schools. In March 2004, the parliament took one-step further and enshrined prohibition in law. This paper provides evidence that the 1994 circular contributed to improving the educational outcomes of female students with a Muslim background and to reducing educational inequalities between Muslim and non-Muslim students. We also provide evidence suggesting that the 2004 law has not generated any further improvements.