Oct. 1, 2002

Going to War and Going to College: Did World War II and the G.I. Bill Increase Educational Attainment for Returning Veterans?

Volume 20, Issue 4, p. 784-815
John Bound

The end of World War II brought a flood of returning veterans to America’s colleges and universities. Yet, despite widespread rhetoric about the democratization’ of higher education that came with this large pool of students, there is little evidence about the question of whether military service, combined with the availability of post-war educational benefits, led these men to increase their investments in education - particularly at the college and university level. This paper uses the structure of the draft during the World War II period and the changing manpower requirements in the armed forces to address the effects of selection in comparisons of the educational attainment of veterans and nonveterans in this era. Using census data, our results indicate that the net effects of military service and the widely available funding for college through the G.I. Bill led to a moderate gain in the postsecondary educational attainment of World War II veterans.