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Socioeconomic Achievement in the Life Course of Disadvantaged Men: Military Service as a Turning Point, Circa 1940-1965

Robert J. Sampson and John H. Laub
American Sociological Review
Vol. 61, No. 3 (Jun., 1996), pp. 347-367
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2096353
Page Count: 21
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Socioeconomic Achievement in the Life Course of Disadvantaged Men: Military Service as a Turning Point, Circa 1940-1965
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Abstract

Linking historical context with macro-social opportunity over the life course, we examine the social mechanisms by which military service in the World War II era fostered long-term socioeconomic achievement. Our analysis draws on a classic longitudinal study of delinquency that brings together data on childhood differences (e.g., IQ, early antisocial behavior), multimethod measures of military experiences, and adult socioeconomic outcomes among 1,000 men raised in poverty areas of Boston during the Great Depression. Supporting a theory of military service as a turning point in the transition to young adulthood, the results show that overseas duty, in-service schooling, and G.I.-Bill training at ages 17 to 25 generally enhanced subsequent occupational status, job stability, and economic well-being, independent of childhood differences and socioeconomic background. The benefits of the G.I. Bill were also larger for veterans stigmatized with an officially delinquent past, especially those who served in the military earlier rather than later in life. Overall the results underscore the potential of large-scale structural interventions in the lives of disadvantaged youths.

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