NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 21, 2007

In comparison with their share of the U.S. population, and especially with their share of the armed services, African-American troops are dying at a lower rate than their white comrades-in-arms, according to a National Journal analysis of the more than 3,000 military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The roots of this racial discrepancy go beyond the politics of the current war to deep-seated socioeconomic differences between blacks and whites, say sociologists who study the military.  But it is clear that, as unpopular as this war has become among Americans in general, it is particularly unpopular among African-Americans.  Since 9/11, black Americans have been enlisting at significantly lower rates than their white counterparts of military age:

  • In the Army, for example, where blacks for almost three decades have made up a disproportionately larger share of soldiers than their share of the U.S. population, black enlistment has declined since 2001.
  • African-Americans made up 24 percent of Army recruits in 2000 but only 14 percent by 2005.

The bottom line of these demographic trends:

  • As of the end of 2003, the first year of the Iraq war, 71 percent of those military members who had died since 9/11 were white and 14 percent were black.
  • But by the end of 2006, the cumulative death toll had shifted to 75 percent white and just 9 percent black.
  • In the U.S. military-age (18 to 44) population at large, blacks make up 13 percent, whites 62 percent.
  • In contrast with the casualties, blacks remain strikingly overrepresented in the U.S. military as a whole, where African-Americans make up 18 percent, whites 64 percent.

Source: Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., "An Ever-Whiter War," National Journal, February 3, 2007.

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