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Why do World War II Veterans Earn More Than Nonveterans?

  • Alan B. Krueger
  • Joshua D. Angrist

Veterans of World War II are widely believed to earn more than nonveterans of the same age. Theoretical justifications for the World War II veteran premium include the subsidization of education and training, and preference for veterans in hiring. In this paper, we propose and test an alternative view: that the observed World War II veteran premium reflects the fact that men with higher earnings potential were more likely to have been selected into the Armed Forces. An empirical strategy is developed that allows estimation of the effects of veteran status while controlling for correlation with unobserved earnings potential. The estimation is based on the fact that from 1942 to 1947 priority for conscription was determined in chronological order of birth. Information on individuals' dates of birth may therefore be used to construct instruments for veteran status. Empirical results from the 1960, 1970, and 1980 Censuses, along with two other micro data sets, support a conclusion that World War II veterans earn no more than comparable nonveterans, and may well earn less. These results suggest that 015 estimates of the World War II veteran premium are severely biased by nonrandom selection into military service, and that the civilian labor market experiences of veterans of World War II were not very different from the experiences of Vietnam-era veterans.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w2991.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2991.

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Date of creation: May 1989
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Journal of Labor Economics, 12, January 1994, pp. 74-97
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2991
Note: LS
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  1. K. Newey, Whitney, 1985. "Generalized method of moments specification testing," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 229-256, September.
  2. J. A. Hausman, 1976. "Specification Tests in Econometrics," Working papers 185, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  3. De Tray, Dennis, 1982. "Veteran Status as a Screening Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(1), pages 133-42, March.
  4. Heckman, James J, 1978. "Dummy Endogenous Variables in a Simultaneous Equation System," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(4), pages 931-59, July.
  5. Angrist, Joshua D, 1990. "Lifetime Earnings and the Vietnam Era Draft Lottery: Evidence from Social Security Administrative Records," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 313-36, June.
  6. Jon R. Crane & David A. Wise, 1987. "Military Service and Civilian Earnings of Youths," NBER Chapters, in: Public Sector Payrolls, pages 119-146 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. LaLonde, Robert J, 1986. "Evaluating the Econometric Evaluations of Training Programs with Experimental Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 604-20, September.
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