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Long-Term Effects of Vietnam-Era Conscription: Schooling, Experience and Earnings

Joshua Angrist () and Stacey Chen ()

Working Papers from U.S. Census Bureau, Center for Economic Studies

Abstract: Instrumental variables (IV) estimates using the draft lottery show that white Vietnam-era draftees suffered substantial post-service earnings losses in the 1970s and 1980s. Angrist (1990) explains these losses as due primarily to lost labor market experience. Non-public use data from the 2000 Census allow the first longerterm follow-up for a large sample from the draft-lottery cohorts. We use these data to estimate the effects of military service on earnings, schooling, and a number of other variables. Consistent with the loss-of -experience model, IV estimates of the effects of Vietnam-era service on earnings are close to zero in 2000, when the draft-lottery cohorts were middle-aged and experience profiles relatively flat. On the other hand, draft-lottery estimates show a marked increase in schooling for Vietnam-era veterans. A variety of evidence suggests this increase reflects the impact of the Vietnam-era GI Bill more than draft-avoidance behavior. The economic return to the increased schooling generated by Vietnam-era service, estimated in a wage equation that constrains the impact of Vietnam-era military service to run solely through the experience and schooling channels, appears to be less than the OLS return. Finally, we look at measures of disability. The IV estimates point to an increase in non-workrelated disability rates and non-SSA disability income, but the fact that there is no corresponding effect on employment, hours worked, or work-related disability rates suggests health was affected little by Vietnam-era service. Allowing for excess disability among veterans raises the estimated returns to GI-Bill schooling slightly.

Pages: 59 pages
Date: 2007-08
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