Political Economy

New Deal, New Patriots: How 1930s Government Spending Boosted Patriotism during WW II

We demonstrate an important complementarity between patriotism and public-good provision. After 1933, the New Deal led to an unprecedented ex- pansion of the U.S. federal government’s role. Those who benefited from social spending were markedly more patriotic during World War II: they bought more war bonds, volunteered more, and, as soldiers, won more medals. This pattern was new—World War I 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 instru- ments to suggest that the effect is causal: droughts and congressional committee representation predict more New Deal agricultural support, as well as bond buy- ing, volunteering, and medals.