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The Draft Lottery and Voluntary Enlistment in the Vietnam Era

Listed author(s):
  • 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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 3514.

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Date of creation: Nov 1990
Publication status: published as Journal of the American Statistical Association, (September 1991).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3514
Note: LS
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  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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