Going to War and Going to College: Discussion

Going to War and Going to College: DiscussionIV. Discussion
Much of what we accomplish in this paper is to narrow appreciably the bounds of the effect of World War II service and the availability of G.I. benefits on educational attainment. A clear lower bound on the magnitude of the effects comes from the between cohort estimates for those born between 1923-28 without consideration of the effect of the Korean War experience and benefits on the control group. These estimates of about .15 years of collegiate attainment and a 4 percentage point increase in college completion are likely to be biased downward owing to the inclusion of Korean War veterans, who had access to a parallel set of educational benefits, in the control group. At the other extreme, within cohort estimates placing the attainment effect at .42 years and the completion effect at 8 percentage points and are likely to form the extreme upper bound.
Narrowing the boundaries relies pivotally on the magnitude of the Korean War effect. Our preferred specifications (columns (7) and (9) of Tables 6 and 7) suggest the effect of World War II service on years of college completed to between 0.23 and 0.28, while they suggest the effect on college completion rates to be between 5 and 6 percentage points. Our estimates that employ the Survey of Veterans to measure the utilization G.I. benefits among Korean War veterans and suggest quite similar effects of service during World War II: on years of college completed , 0.26 years; on college completion 6.1 percentage points. In sum, our preferred estimates suggest a modestly smaller effect of World War II and the availability of benefits on years of educational attainment than would be obtained by simple within cohort comparisons between veterans and nonveterans, an outcome which is consistent with the selective nature of the wartime draft.
It is worth comparing our estimates to other points of reference in the literature. Stanley (1999) uses the break in benefit eligibility among men serving in the later years of the Korean War to estimate how the availability of benefits changed post-service attainment. He finds that educational benefits available to veterans of the Korean War increased years of collegiate attainment by about .25 years and increased college completion by about .05 percentage points. Our estimates are also consistent with Lemieux and Card’s (1998) recent estimates of the effect of World War II service on educational attainment in Canada. Comparing educational attainment across cohorts in a manner similar to what we have done, Lemieux and Card, estimate the effect of wartime service on post secondary school educational attainment that range from 0.27 to 0.46 years.