November 30, 2005


The other day I lost my temper with people who look down their noses at those in the military. Therefore, information on this study caught my attention on the news this morning.

Debunking the myth of the underprivileged soldier

According to a comprehensive study of all enlistees for the years 1998-99 and 2003 that The Heritage Foundation just released, the typical recruit in the all-volunteer force is wealthier, more educated and more rural than the average 18- to 24-year-old citizen is. Indeed, for every two recruits coming from the poorest neighborhoods, there are three recruits coming from the richest neighborhoods.
In fact, since the 9/11 attacks, more volunteers have emerged from the middle and upper classes and fewer from the lowest-income groups. In 1999, both the highest fifth of the nation in income and the lowest fifth were slightly underrepresented among military volunteers. Since 2001, enlistments have increased in the top two-fifths of income levels but have decreased among the lowest fifth.

Allegations that recruiters are disproportionately targeting blacks also don't hold water. First, whites make up 77.4% of the nation's population and 75.8% of its military volunteers, according to our analysis of Department of Defense data.

Second, we explored the 100 three-digit ZIP code areas with the highest concentration of blacks, which range from 24.1% black up to 68.6%. These areas, which account for 14.6% of the adult population, produced 16.6% of recruits in 1999 and only 14.1% in 2003.

The full reports can be read here:
Is Iraq a Poor Man's War?
Who Bears the Burden? Demographic Characteristics of U.S. Military Recruits Before and After 9/11

And for the guy who doesn't think anyone joins these days "for flag and country", what do you make of this?

After September 11, 2001, the educational quality of recruits rose slightly. Comparing 1999 enlisted recruits to 2003 recruits showed an increase in col­legiate experience. In 2003, a higher proportion of recruits had college experience and diplomas, and a lower percentage had only a high school diploma— a shift of about 3 percentage points.

That statistic would include close-to-my-heart recruit Tyler Prewitt, who left the baseball team at Phoenix College to enlist after September 11th and died in OIF II.

For flag and country.

Posted by: Sarah at 05:59 AM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
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1 TP sounds like he was an exceptional young man. God Bless him and his family.

Posted by: Vonn at November 30, 2005 11:32 AM (dEgRi)

2 These statistics are all fine and dandy, but it just reveals just how much one can tweak the rhetoric by presenting other aspects of statistics. The USA Today article (don't have time to read Heritage foundation aticle at this point) went into great pains to pick out minutae from different sides of the same statistics. I think what this reveals is not that the Heritage foundation got it all wrong--in fact, I think they got it all right. But, that everyone is skewing all of these things to fit a goal or another. Statistics never lie, because they don't tell us anything to begin with. Well...they do tell us some things, but they tell us things that are far, far less significant than we assume them to be. (and that racial make-up is also deceptive. The biggest issue many people have when it comes to the racial make-up of the military is not that there are not enough white soldiers, but there are not enough black soldiers in the higher ranks. Now, I don't necessarily experience this first hand because my ROTC batallion has a lot of black and latino cadres. But I heard a statistic somewhere--please don't quote me on this--that the enlisted units are ~45% minority. The issue isn't how many people are in, but where those people are allocated, and why.)

Posted by: John at November 30, 2005 12:32 PM (enIP4)

3 Points taken. If you do have time, I would suggest reading at least the beginning of the "Is Iraq a Poor Man's War" article: that's where they address how other widely-published studies were flawed. Interesting stuff.

Posted by: Sarah at November 30, 2005 12:57 PM (zrXTX)

4 My 17 year old daughter has 4 friends 1 girl and 3 boys who all leave for boot camp right after Christmas. All are white, high school grads, 3 are middle class and 1 is upper middle class.

Posted by: Patti at November 30, 2005 03:40 PM (2hEo4)

5 So that no one interprets my anti-Bush stance as anti-military, let me make a point that I think is important and that people who complain about the disproportionate number of minority soldiers tend to miss. One reason that the military attracts a disproportionate number of minority soldiers is that it makes real efforts to treat them fairly. Their race is not an obstacle to their advancement the way it would often be in the private sector. Of course this hasn't always been true in the military, but it has made considerable strides in overcoming its racist legacy.

Posted by: Pericles at November 30, 2005 07:21 PM (eKf5G)

6 Military as racist is dumb, but I don't know about debunking the economic aspect. For the job seeker, the military is practically accessible in ways that other fields are not. For the less-credentialed, the military is a viable option where other options are out of reach. I view the accessibility of the military as a positive, not a negative. You still have to earn it, but opportunities for social advancement are real and honest in the military. You touch on a theory I've held since 9/11 that the over-all number of recruits would drop (temporarily?) but the quality of recruits would rise. Before 9/11, the Army recruiting pitch was mainly about economic self-interest, which makes sense for a peace-time Army. Soldiering is more than a job, but many soldiers I knew in peace-time approached it as a job only. It was a lower standard that was acceptable because we were not at war. Calculations necessarily change in war-time. Based on the 'obsolete' peace-time economic-based recruiting pitch for a military now at war, it makes sense that the number of recruits would drop. At the same time, a higher ratio of those who join now are probably more inclined to be real 24/7 Soldiers and not minimum standard types. The quality should rise. I think that's a trade-off that in the long run, works better for the military: better soldiers, better leaders. For my part, I ETSed before 9/11 to attend Columbia, and as proud as I was to be a soldier, I wouldn't have seriously considered returning. With the war changing and improving the quality of the military, though, I've been thinking seriously about going back in ... as a Columbia grad.

Posted by: Eric at November 30, 2005 09:08 PM (WgdtA)

7 A friend of mine used to have this to say about statistics...... "Figures don't lie ,but, liars figure." Kinda changed my perspective on statistical analysis of anything.

Posted by: Pamela at December 01, 2005 10:52 AM (E/5rx)

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