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The Long-Term Effects of Military Conscription on Mortality: Estimates from the Vietnam-era Draft Lottery

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  • Dalton Conley
  • Jennifer A. Heerwig
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    Abstract

    Research on the effects of Vietnam military service suggests that Vietnam veterans experienced significantly higher mortality than both non-Vietnam veterans and the civilian population at large. These results, however, may be biased by non-random selection into the military if unobserved background differences between veterans and non-veterans affect mortality directly. The present study generates unbiased estimates of the causal impact of Vietnam era draft eligibility on male mortality. Using records from the Vietnam draft lottery to assign decedents born 1950-1952 draft lottery numbers, the study estimates excess mortality among observed draft eligible male decedents as compared to the (1) expected proportion of draft eligible decedents given Vietnam draft eligibility cutoffs and (2) observed proportion of draft eligible female decedents. The results demonstrate that there appears to be no effect of draft exposure on mortality (even cause-specific death rates). When we examine population subgroups—including splits by race, educational attainment, nativity and marital status—we find weak evidence for an interaction between education and draft eligibility. On the whole, these results suggest that previous research, which has shown that Vietnam-era veterans experienced significantly higher mortality than non-veterans, may be biased by non-random selection into the military and may thus overstate the need for compensatory government pensions.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15105.

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    Date of creation: Jun 2009
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    Publication status: published as Conley, D. and J. Heerwig. 2012. “The Long-Te rm Effects of Milita ry Conscription on Mortality: Estimates from the Vietnam-era Draft Lottery.” Demography . 49: 841-855.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15105

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    1. Joshua D. Angrist & Stacey H. Chen, 2007. "Long-term consequences of vietnam-era conscription: schooling, experience, and earnings," NBER Working Papers 13411, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Joshua Angrist, 1989. "Lifetime Earnings and the Vietnam Era Draft Lottery: Evidence from Social Security Administrative Records," Working Papers 631, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    3. Angrist, Joshua & Krueger, Alan B, 1994. "Why Do World War II Veterans Earn More Than Nonveterans?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 12(1), pages 74-97, January.
    4. Mark C. Berger & Barry T. Hirsch, 1983. "The Civilian Earnings Experience of Vietnam - Era Veterans," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 18(4), pages 455-479.
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    Cited by:
    1. Sebastian Galiani & Martín A. Rossi & Ernesto Schargrodsky, 2010. "Conscription and Crime: Evidence from the Argentine Draft Lottery," Working Papers 2010.55, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    2. Jason M. Lindo & Charles F. Stoecker, 2012. "Drawn into Violence: Evidence on 'What Makes a Criminal' from the Vietnam Draft Lotteries," NBER Working Papers 17818, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Buckles, Kasey & Malamud, Ofer & Morrill, Melinda Sandler & Wozniak, Abigail, 2012. "The Effect of College Education on Health," IZA Discussion Papers 6659, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Peter Siminski & Simon Ville, 2012. "I Was Only Nineteen, 45 Years Ago: What Can we Learn from Australia’s Conscription Lotteries?," Economics Working Papers, School of Economics, University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia wp12-06, School of Economics, University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia.

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