In 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the new Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, otherwise known as the G.I. Bill. The G.I. Bill created sweeping new benefits for millions of veterans returning from WWII. Those benefits included money for education, job training, low-interest home loans, and unemployment benefits. Within its first seven years, about 8 million veterans took advantage of these benefits. The G.I. Bill led to a jump in university and college enrollment, a housing boom, and helped usher in an era of prosperity.
During the war, government officials realized that when the war eventually ended, 16 million men and women serving in the armed forces would return home unemployed. That level of unemployment had the potential to create financial instability within the country and could lead to an economic depression. In a bipartisan effort led by the American Legion, planning got underway for new legislation that could help returning veterans and benefit the economy. The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act was passed by Congress in January 1944 and signed by President Roosevelt the following June.
One of the landmark provisions of the G.I. Bill was funding for education. Before the war, a college education was out of reach for the average American. The G.I. Bill, however, flung the doors to universities and vocational schools wide open with benefits that covered tuition, books, supplies, and offered a living stipend. A college education was now within reach and many veterans took advantage of the opportunity. Educational funding had the added benefit of preventing too many veterans from flooding the job market all at once. In 1947, nearly half of those admitted to college were veterans, and between 1940-1950, the number of college and university degrees earned doubled.
Another popular benefit offered through the G.I. Bill was low-interest home loans. The VA Home Loan benefit granted 4.3 million low-interest, zero down payment home loans between 1945-1955. Veterans starting families snapped up the home loans and moved to the suburbs. New neighborhoods sprang up in mass-produced subdivisions all around the country and veterans became the largest single group of homeowners.
The building boom helped usher in an era of unprecedented prosperity and growth for the middle class. Homeownership “cemented the stability of millions of veterans’ families,” fueled job growth, and added substantially to personal income and consumer demand. WWII rations and shortages gave way to abundance and prosperity that helped shaped the country for decades.
Other benefits offered through the G.I. Bill included unemployment benefits, money to start a business, additional veterans hospitals, and veteran job counseling and employment services.
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