Why Do World War II Veterans Earn More Than Nonveterans?


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 OLS 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.

Year of Publication
Date Published
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Journal of Labor Economics, Vol. 12, No. 1, January, 1994
Working Papers