Absence of conflict of interest.
Barr , A. (2015). From the battlefield to the schoolyard: The short-term impact of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Journal of Human Resources, 50(3), 580-613.
- The study’s objective was to examine the effects of Post-9/11 GI Bill on veterans’ college enrollment. The author investigated similar research questions in another study, the profile of which is available [here].
- The study used regression methods in a nonexperimental analysis, drawing on data from the American Community Survey and Current Population Survey. The study compared college enrollment of veterans eligible for the GI Bill benefits with civilians, who were not eligible to receive the benefits.
- The study found that veterans eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits were significantly more likely to enroll in college after the introduction of the bill compared with civilians.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before 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.
Post-9/11 GI Bill
Features of the Intervention
This study focuses on the expansion of education benefits for veterans under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The bill, which took effect in August 2009, retroactively provided additional education benefits to people who served in active duty after September 11, 2001. The Post-9/11 GI Bill roughly doubled the average maximum benefit amounts from the prior iteration of the GI Bill. Benefits under the bill include in-state tuition, fees, a housing allowance, and a stipend for books. Maximum benefit levels vary by state and are based on the highest tuition and fee level of any public institution in the veteran’s state of residence. Veteran students who are enrolled for more than half-time are also eligible for a monthly housing allowance.
Features of the Study
The study used regression methods to estimate the effects of the Post-9/11 GI Bill in a nonexperimental analysis. The author compared college enrollment of veterans before and after the bill was implemented relative to college enrollment of nonveteran civilians over the same period.
Data came from the 2006 to 2011 samples of the American Community Survey and the October Current Population Survey supplement on education. The sample included people who were born and reside in the United States, were ages 23 to 28, and had at least a high school or equivalent diploma but not a bachelor’s degree. In the Current Population Survey data, there were 1,285 veterans and 29,684 nonveterans observed; in the American Community Survey data, there were 39,937 veterans and 587,345 nonveterans.
- The study found that veterans increased college enrollment by about 1.7 percentage points before and after the introduction of the Post-9/11 GI Bill compared with civilians over the same time period.
- The study found that the separated veterans (those no longer in the military) increased college enrollment by 4 to 6 percentage points (depending on data source) before and after the introduction of the post-9/11 GI Bill compared with civilians over the same time period.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
In the analysis, the author controls for age, race, and gender and accounts for education before the introduction of the Post-9/11 GI Bill by limiting the sample to those with a high school degree but without a college degree. But the author does not account for socioeconomic status measured before introduction of the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
In addition, the study used nonveterans as a comparison group for veterans. Although the study demonstrated that the trends in college enrollment were similar between veterans and nonveterans in the period before the enactment of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, there were still likely unobservable differences between the two groups that would affect their educational trajectories.
Finally, the implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill corresponded with the onset of the Great Recession, which could have altered the enrollment behaviors of both veterans and nonveterans because it was more challenging to find a job, and, therefore, attending college might have been more preferable.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before 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.