NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 28, 2005

A new study, reported in the Washington Post earlier this month, suggests that higher enlistment rates in rural counties are new, implying a poorer military. The researchers erred by drawing conclusions from a non-random sample of a few counties, creating a statistically cloaked anecdote. The only accurate way to assess military demographics is to consider all recruits, say Tim Kane, an Air Force veteran and James Jay Carafano, an Army veteran.

  • If, for example, we consider the education of every recruit, 98 percent joined with high-school diplomas or better.
  • By comparison, 75 percent of the general population meets that standard.
  • Among all areas in the United States, grouped by the first three digits of their ZIP codes, not one had a higher graduation rate among civilians than among military recruits in 2003.

In fact, since September 11, 2001, more volunteers have emerged from the middle and upper classes and fewer from the lowest-income groups, say Kane and Carafano:

  • 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.

Maintaining the strength and size of our all-volunteer military isn't always easy. But Americans step up when their country needs them. To suggest the system is failing or exploiting citizens is wrong, say Kane and Carafono.

Source: Tim Kane and James Jay Carafano, "Debunking the myth of the underprivileged soldier," USA Today, November 28, 2005.


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