NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Hispanics Not Overrepresented in Military

March 31, 2003

Hispanics are generally not overrepresented in the armed forces compared to their percentage of the overall population, according to a Pew Hispanic Center report based on unpublished Department of Defense statistics for 2001. The report counters the claim or impression that minorities are overrepresented in the all-volunteer military.

  • At the end of September 2001 there were 109,487 Hispanics in the enlisted ranks, and they made up 9.49 percent of the active duty enlisted force.
  • In contrast, Hispanics made up 13.35 percent of the civilian labor force 18 to 44 years old, the typical age range for enlisted service.
  • However, although there are 11.7 million Latinos in the civilian workforce of military age, only 7.5 million have the educational credentials that qualify them for military service.

Virtually all enlisted personnel (99 percent in FY2001) are either high school graduates or hold an alternative credential such as a General Education Development (GED) certificate. Thus Hispanics in the military represent about 15 percent of the Hispanic population qualified to serve.

Additionally, the report found that Hispanics are a relatively small share of the total officer corps. But, with few exceptions, a four-year college degree is a prerequisite for military officers. Comparing the percentage of Latino officers to the percentage of Latinos in the civilian labor force of the appropriate age and with a college degree, in both the Navy and the Marine Corps the percentage of Hispanic officers is roughly on par with the percentage of qualified Latinos in the civilian workforce. It is somewhat lower in the Army and substantially lower in the Air Force.

By this measure whites are on par in the Army and overrepresented in the other services, and blacks are overrepresented in the Army but underrepresented in the other services.

Source: "Pew Hispanic Center Report Finds Hispanics Not Over Represented In Military As Percentage Of Population," White House Bulletin, March 27, 2003; "Hispanics in the Military," Fact Sheet, March 27, 2003, Pew Hispanic Center.

For Pew report


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