How did the local legacies of the frontier shape the decisions of men and women to enlist in the US military during World War II? We combine county-level data on World War II enlistment with measures of total frontier exposure from Bazzi et al. (2020) to show that men enlisted in World War II at roughly similar rates regardless of whether they were from places with more or less frontier experience. By contrast, women located in places that had more frontier experience enlisted at lower rates. To better understand these differences, we next leverage county-level data from the 1940 Census, and show that women located in places with more total frontier experience had more household responsibilities, less labor force participation, and more children. Our findings show how the culture that developed on the frontier had a constraining influence on women, who were left with primary responsibilities on the homefront. This demobilization highlights how gendered cultural constraints can decrease women's military participation.
Journal of Historical Political Economy, Volume 2, Issue 4 Special Issue: The Development of the American West: Articles Overview
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