Civilian Public Sector Employment as a Long-Run Outcome of Military Conscription

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National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America


Since at least T. H. Marshall, scholars have recognized military service as a form of sacrifice that warrants compensation from the state. War-widow pensions, expansion of the franchise, and subsidized higher education are all examples of rights and benefits "bestowed" in return for wartime mobilization. Similarly, in the United States, governments have hired veterans preferentially for civilian public jobs as recompense for active military service. Although oft-overlooked, those policies seem influential: the percentage of jobholders identifying as veterans in the civilian US executive branch exceeds the proportion in the wider population by several multiples. This century-old pattern suggests another way that wartime mobilization has influenced the state. Yet, efforts to understand it have struggled to rule out the possibility that those who serve in the armed forces are predisposed to work for the state in both military and civilian capacities. Here, we rule out this possibility by examining whether birthdates randomly called for induction in the Vietnam-Era Selective Service Lotteries (VSSL) appear disproportionately in the population of nonsensitive personnel records of the civilian US executive branch. We find that birthdates called for induction appear with unusually high frequency among employees who were draft-eligible and at risk for induction but not among other employees. This finding suggests a treatment effect from military service, thus dovetailing with the hypothesis that wartime mobilization has substantially and continually influenced who works in the contemporary administrative state.



Employment, Military Veterans, State Development, Public Service, Labor Market


Johnson, Tim, and Dalton Conley. 2019. “Civilian Public Sector Employment as a Long-Run Outcome of Military Conscription.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 116 (43): 21456–62.