NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 14, 2005

A few members of Congress, motivated by American combat in the Middle East, have called for the reinstatement of a compulsory military draft. Those in favor of a draft often claim that a disproportionate number of enlisted troops are poor and members of minority groups. However, after a thorough investigation of the demographic status of the all-volunteer military, Tim Kane of the Heritage Foundation found no evidence to support such claims.

Indeed, Kane found the troops are more similar than dissimilar to the general population, in terms of education, household income, race and home origin. Consider:

  • Mean household income for recruits in 1999 was $41,141 (in 2000 dollars), compared to the general population median of $41,994; recruits in 2003 came from households with an average 1999 income of $42,882.
  • As education, 98 percent of recruits have a high school education or higher, compared to 75 percent of non-recruits.
  • Based on 2003 data, whites are proportionately represented in the military (and Army specifically); blacks and native Americans are overrepresented, offsetting underrepresentation by Asians and individuals who decline to identify a race.
  • More important, the data reveal that recruiting was not drawing disproportionately from racially concentrated areas.

Put simply, says Kane, the current makeup of the all-voluntary military looks like America except that the average soldier is slightly better educated and comes from a slightly wealthier, more rural area.

Perhaps more could be done to dismantle the claim that an all-volunteer military relies disproportionately on ignorant, black, poor, urban young citizens in America, says Kane, but the evidence already clearly shows this claim to be hollow.

Congress needs to remain steadfast in opposing coerced conscription and expose the myths of racial and class exploitation in military recruiting, says Kane.

Source: Tim Kane, "Who Bears the Burden? Demographic Characteristics of U.S. Military Recruits Before and After 9/11," Heritage Foundation, Report No. 05-08, November 7, 2005.


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