Sunday, November 18, 2007

Conscription doesn't come cheaply

New Economist quotes a paper by Paolo Buonanno from UC Berkeley and the University of Bergamo.

"We study the effects of the abolition of compulsory military service in the UK on labor market outcomes. Our analysis sheds light on the importance of early labor career phase on labor market outcome; conscription represents a career interruption and prevents the acquisition of labor experience in early labor life. The reform took place in 1960 and affected all men born in and after 1943. We provide new evidence of the effects of compulsory military service on subsequent earnings and we further explore whether the effect of conscription on wages acts through the education channel.

Our results suggest that the effect of military conscription on subsequent earnings is significant and long-lasting. Males who served for two years in the National Service earn on average between 4 and 6 percentage points less than the immediately subsequent cohort exempt from compulsory military service. We find very little evidence that the effect of military service on subsequent earnings is through education. In fact, our estimates show that exempt cohorts accumulate on average only a quarter of a year of additional education. We test the robustness of our results estimating the effect of the abolition of conscription on women. As expected, since women were exempt from military conscription, we find no effect on earnings and educational attainment."
and adds himself:
"A loss of earnings of around 5% for men equates to a loss of about 2% of GDP - that's quite some cost!"
I personally support conscription. Especially in a small country like Estonia situated in a geopolitically unstable area like ours (if you can judge by the past). But it would be interesting to know, how many men would be willing to accept extra 5% income tax for the rest of their life for not going to the military service. Considering that it is 2% of GDP, that would double our military expenditure and make more expensive (?) professional army more affordable. Well i wouldn't take such an option. I actually think the military service has benefited me in my future career by widening my perspective on the world. Or maybe its just my cognitive bias towards something i've spent 8 months on.

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