The Journal of Economic History


Closing the Gap or Widening the Divide: The Effects of the G.I. Bill and World War II on the Educational Outcomes of Black Americans

Sarah Turner c1 and John Bound c2


The effects of the G.I. Bill on collegiate attainment may have differed for black and white Americans owing to differential returns to education and differences in opportunities at colleges and universities, with men in the South facing explicitly segregated colleges. The empirical evidence suggests that World War II and the availability of G.I. benefits had a substantial and positive impact on the educational attainment of white men and black men born outside the South. However, for those black veterans likely to be limited to the South in their educational choices, the G.I. Bill had little effect on collegiate outcomes.

c1 Sarah Turner is Assistant Professor of Education and Economics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904; and Faculty Research Fellow, NBER. E-mail:
c2 John Bound is Professor, Department of Economics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1220; and Research Associate, NBER. E-mail: