How Vietnam-Era Military Service Affected the Civic Participation of Subsequent Generations
33 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2014
Date Written: 2014
U.S. civic participation declined in the aftermath of the Vietnam conflict, unlike prior 20th Century postwar periods. Past research has argued that this decline resulted from broad social trends and it has downplayed the hypothesis that Vietnam-era military service contributed to decreasing civic engagement. In this paper, we reconsider that hypothesis by examining how the quasi-random assignment of military service, via the Vietnam-era Selective Service Lotteries, affected rates of civic participation among the children of draft-eligible men. Our instrumental variable analysis finds that an offspring’s self-reported community service declines with his or her father’s probability of draft-induced military service. This finding supports the hypothesis that draft-induced military service contributed to declining civic engagement after the Vietnam War and it highlights the important effect of inter-generational transmission on social behavior. Furthermore, the results show how experiences within bureaucratic institutions can yield long-standing effects on politically-relevant behaviors, thus reinforcing past claims about the important role of policy feedback in modern, administrative states.
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