The Depression was responsible for the enactment, late in the 1930s,
of legislation restricting the labor-force participation of youths, the
object of which was to reduce unemployment by eliminating a segment of
the population from the job market. The anticipated consequence of
this was the postponement of the school-leaving age. World War II
temporarily solved this problem with its immense mobilization of the population
for production and service in the armed forces, but as the war drew to
an end fears revived that the return of the demobilized soldiers and sailors,
together with the cutback of war orders, would renew the Great Depression.
Among the measure enacted to ward this off was the veterans' educational
subsidy, which after both World War II and the Korean War, swelled school
enrollment, subsidized educational institutions, and contributed further
to the prolongation of the average schooling period. Throughout the
postwar period the rapid pace of capital accumulation stimulated demand
for specialized managerial and semi-managerial employees and other professionals,
and this demand, I the situation of governmental subsidy to education,
brought forth, not unexpectedly, so great a supply of college-trained people
that by the end of the 1960s it began to manifest itself as an oversupply.
The encouragement to an entire generation to train itself for "careers,"
when all that would be available for at least three-quarters of that generation
were working-class jobs requiring minimal education and offering working-class
pay, began to backfire (303).