G.I. Bill

The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 (P.L. 78-346, 58 Stat. 284m), known informally as the G.I. Bill, was a law that provided a range of benefits for returning World War II veterans (commonly referred to as G.I.s). Benefits included low-cost mortgages, low-interest loans to start a business, cash payments of tuition and living expenses to attend university, high school or vocational education, as well as one year of unemployment compensation. It was available to every veteran who had been on active duty during the war years for at least ninety days and had not been dishonorably discharged; combat was not required. By 1956, roughly 2.2 million veterans had used the G.I. Bill education benefits in order to attend colleges or universities, and an additional 5.6 million used these benefits for some kind of training program. Canada operated a similar program for its World War II veterans, with an economic impact similar to the American case.

The G.I. Bill was a major factor in the creation of the American middle class, but also substantially increased racial inequality because many of the benefits of the G.I. bill were not granted to soldiers of color. This is because "at the very moment when a wide array of public policies was providing most white Americans with valuable tools to advance their social welfare—insure their old age, get good jobs, acquire economic security, build assets, and gain middle-class status—most black Americans were left behind or left out."

Since the original 1944 law, the term has come to include other veteran benefit programs created to assist veterans of subsequent wars as well as peacetime service. Historians and economists consider the G.I. Bill a major political success—especially in contrast to the treatments of World War I veterans—and a major contribution to America's stock of human capital that sped long-term economic growth.

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