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The Draft Lottery and Voluntary Enlistment in the Vietnam Era


  • Joshua D. Angrist


A combination of voluntary enlistment, armed forces eligibility criteria, and the failure of draftees to avoid conscription jointly determined the racial composition of the Vietnam-era armed forces. Administrative data show that men with draft lottery numbers that put them at high risk of conscription are overrepresented among men who voluntarily enlisted in the military, but that the effect of the lottery on enlistment is stronger for whites than for nonwhites. Minimum Chi-Square estimates of enlistment models for the 1971 draft lottery suggest that nonwhites were more likely than whites to prefer enlistment to a civilian career. This finding appears to explain racial differences in the effect of the lottery on enlistment. Contrary to the findings of a recent congressional study, the Vietnam-era estimates presented here suggest that conscription of a relatively small number of whites and nonwhites in a manner proportional to their prevalence in the population might substantially reduce nonwhite representation in the armed forces.

Suggested Citation

  • Joshua D. Angrist, 1990. "The Draft Lottery and Voluntary Enlistment in the Vietnam Era," NBER Working Papers 3514, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3514
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Warner, John T & Goldberg, Matthew S, 1984. "The Influence of Non-Pecuniary Factors on Labor Supply: The Case of Navy Enlisted Personnel," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 66(1), pages 26-35, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Thomas Lemieux & David Card, 2001. "Education, earnings, and the "Canadian G.I. Bill"," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 34(2), pages 313-344, May.
    2. John T. Warner & Beth J. Asch, 2001. "The Record and Prospects of the All-Volunteer Military in the United States," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(2), pages 169-192, Spring.
    3. Joshua D. Angrist & Alan B. Krueger, 1991. "Estimating the Payoff to Schooling Using the Vietnam-era Draft Lottery," Working Papers 670, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    4. 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.
    5. Joshua D. Angrist & Victor Lavy, 1997. "Using Maimonides' Rule to Estimate the Effect of Class Size on Student Achievement," NBER Working Papers 5888, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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