August 31, 2015

The Integration of Minority World War II Veterans Into the Middle Class

Taunya Lovell Banks, University of Maryland School of Law, is publishing Race, Place and Historic Moment – Black and Japanese American World War II Veterans: The G.I. Bill of Rights and the Model Minority Myth in Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation (Robert S. Chang and Greg Robinson eds.; forthcoming). Here is the abstract.
The most commonly touted social change in the United States following the end of World War II is the expansion of the American middle class. The more frequently invoked narrative holds that the G.I. Bill, by providing veterans previously unavailable educational opportunities, elevated the socioeconomic status of a substantial segment of the American population as they entered their most productive working years. Black and Japanese American soldiers who fought abroad in racially segregated units to “make the world safe for democracy,” returned to fight, with others, for full citizenship rights at home in the civil rights movements of the mid twentieth century. During this period second generation Japanese Americans (Nisei), but not blacks, achieved near economic parity with whites causing some to characterize them as a “model minority.” Historian Roger Daniels, writing that “the transformation [of Japanese Americans] from ‘pariah to paragon’ [was not] merely a mechanical adjustment of market forces,” urged historians to more closely examine the factors contributing to the relative post-war economic success of Japanese Americans. This chapter takes on an aspect of Daniels’ challenge. It asks whether the advantages allegedly conferred on WWII veterans who received G.I. Bill benefits explains the current socio-economic status of Japanese Americans, or whether other factors better explain their relative postwar success.
Download the essay from SSRN at the link.

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