, Volume 52, Issue 5, pp 1431–1461 | Cite as

War and Marriage: Assortative Mating and the World War II GI Bill

  • Matthew F. Larsen
  • T. J. McCarthy
  • Jeremy G. Moulton
  • Marianne E. PageEmail author
  • Ankur J. Patel


World War II and its subsequent GI Bill have been widely credited with playing a transformative role in American society, but there have been few quantitative analyses of these historical events’ broad social effects. We exploit between-cohort variation in the probability of military service to investigate how WWII and the GI Bill altered the structure of marriage, and find that it had important spillover effects beyond its direct effect on men’s educational attainment. Our results suggest that the additional education received by returning veterans caused them to “sort” into wives with significantly higher levels of education. This suggests an important mechanism by which socioeconomic status may be passed on to the next generation.


Marital sorting Education WWII GI Bill 



We would like to thank Rachana Bhatt, Daniel Fetter, and Christine Schwartz for their helpful comments. We would also like to thank seminar participants at the University of California San Diego; University of Essex; University of Kentucky; London School of Economics; Texas A & M University; University of Texas-Austin; and participants in the All UC Labor Economics Workshop, American Education Finance and Policy Annual Meeting, the Bergen-Stavanger Workshop, University of Michigan Conference on the Long-Run Impacts of Early Life Events, and Society of Labor Economics annual meeting. We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the National Science Foundation grant #SES-0350988.


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew F. Larsen
    • 1
  • T. J. McCarthy
    • 2
  • Jeremy G. Moulton
    • 3
  • Marianne E. Page
    • 4
    Email author
  • Ankur J. Patel
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsLafayette CollegeEastonUSA
  2. 2.Sol Price School of Public PolicyUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Department of Public PolicyUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA
  4. 4.Department of EconomicsUniversity of California DavisDavisUSA
  5. 5.U.S. Department of the TreasuryWashingtonUSA

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