Does government spending boost patriotism?

We demonstrate an important complementarity between patriotism and public-good provision. After 1933, the New Deal led to an unprecedented expansion of the US federal government’s role. Those who benefited from social spending were markedly more patriotic during WWII: they bought more war bonds, volunteered more, and, as soldiers, won more medals. This pattern was new – WWI volunteering did not show the same geography of patriotism. We match military service records with the 1940 census to show that this pattern holds at the individual level. Using geographical variation, we exploit two instruments to suggest that the effect is causal: droughts and congressional committee representation predict more New Deal agricultural support, as well as bond buying, volunteering, and medals.

That is by Bruno Caprettini & Hans-Joachim Voth, forthcoming in the QJE.


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