Advanced seminar in Economics - Hans-Joachim Voth (University of Zurich)
From Welfare to Warfare: New Deal Spending and Patriotism during World War II
Wednesday 13 November 2019 (11h00 - 12h30) - Extranef - 118.1
Why do people fight for their country? The risks are extreme, the payoff uncertain. This paper shows that receiving welfare support can be a key motivating factor. Under the New Deal, welfare spending in the U.S. expanded substantially. Support for World War II became more widespread where welfare support was generous pre-war: war bonds sold in greater volume after 1941, more citizens volunteered, and a greater share of soldiers performed heroic actions recognized by a medal. We use two instruments to show that the effect is causal. Weather shocks in the form of droughts and representation on congressional committees predict New Deal agricultural emergency relief. In turn, the predicted share of variation in income support is associated with more volunteering, bond buying, and medals. Economic factors cannot account for these patterns. Importantly, using data on WW I volunteering, we show that welfare spending created a new geographical pattern of patriotism.