During the Vietnam draft priority for military service was randomly
assigned to draft-age men in a series of lotteries. However, many men
managed to avoid military service by enrolling in school and obtaining an
educational deferment. This paper uses the draft lottery as a natural
experiment to estimate the return to education and the veteran premium.
Estimates are based on special extracts of the Current Population Survey
that the Census Bureau assembled for 1979 and 1981-85. The results suggest
that an extra year of schooling acquired in response to the lottery is
associated with 6.6 percent higher weekly earnings. This figure is about
10 percent higher the OLS estimate of the return to education for this
sample, which suggests there is little ability bias in conventional
estimates of the return to education. Our findings are robust to a variety
of "alternative assumptions about the effect of veteran status on earnings.