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Life after service for post-9/11 veterans: Data, methods, and policy impacts (Gardner 2016)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Gardner, J. S. (2016). Life after service for post-9/11 veterans: Data, methods, and policy impacts (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from https://digitalscholarship.unlv.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3867&context=thesesdissertations

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the effects of the 2008 GI Bill on post-9/11 veterans’ employment and educational attainment.
  • The study used a statistical model to compare outcomes between veterans from before and after the passing of the 2008 GI Bill using data from the American Community Survey.
  • The study found statistically significant relationships between the 2008 GI Bill and the education or employment of veterans.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not observe outcomes for multiple demonstrations of the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the post-9/11 GI Bill; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Intervention Examined

The 2008 GI Bill

Features of the Intervention

The 2008 G.I. Bill was a modification of the Montgomery G.I. Bill (1985) that substantially expanded educational benefits to recipients—compared with bills enacted through previous service eras—to increase opportunities for veterans so they could obtain higher education degrees. Benefits for eligible post-9/11 era veterans vary based on geographic location and can amount to more than $170,000 (in 2013 dollars). Similar to the Montgomery GI Bill, the 2008 GI Bill provides living expense stipends in addition to educational benefits. Veterans are eligible for these benefits if they were discharged honorably or for service-related disabilities.

Features of the Study

The author compared the outcomes of post-9/11 veterans before and after the passing of the 2008 GI Bill. The study used regression methods to estimate the effects of the bill using data from the American Community Survey-Public Use Microdata Sample from 2005 to 2015. The statistical model included veterans’ race, sex, and location.

The sample included 183,027 post-9/11 veterans ages 18 to 69 who were not on active duty or in the active reserve or National Guard. Study participants were mostly male (85 percent), mostly White (78 percent), and mostly employed.

Findings

Employment

  • The study found a statistically significant negative relationship between the 2008 GI Bill and the employment outcomes of veterans.

Education

  • The study found a statistically significant positive relationship between the 2008 GI Bill and the educational attainment of veterans.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The author compared the education and employment outcomes of post-9/11 veterans measured before and after the passing of the 2008 GI Bill. For these types of designs, the author must observe outcomes for multiple periods before the intervention to rule out the possibility that these veterans had increasing or decreasing trends in the outcomes examined before the 2008 GI Bill. That is, if the veterans who had increasing trends in education or employment outcomes were veterans after the passing of the 2008 GI Bill, we would anticipate further increases over time, even if they didn’t receive benefits through the 2008 GI Bill. Without knowing the trends before the 2008 GI Bill, we cannot rule this out. In addition, the passage of the 2008 GI Bill coincided with the beginning of the Great Recession, and the observed effects on education and employment could be attributable to the recession rather than the bill. Therefore, the study receives a low causal evidence rating.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not account for trends in outcomes before the intervention. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the 2008 GI Bill; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

March 2020

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