Chris Muir's Day By Day

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Who Joins the Military?

Contrary to what Senator John Kerry or writer Stephen King would have you believe, it's not the dumbest Americans, or the poorest.

In 2008, using data provided by the Defense Department, the Heritage Foundation found that only 11% of enlisted military recruits in 2007 came from the poorest one-fifth, or quintile, of American neighborhoods (as of the 2000 Census), while 25% came from the wealthiest quintile. Heritage reported that "these trends are even more pronounced in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, in which 40% of enrollees come from the wealthiest neighborhoods, a number that has increased substantially over the past four years."

Indeed, the Heritage report showed that "low-income families are underrepresented in the military and high-income families are overrepresented. Individuals from the bottom household income quintile make up 20.0 percent of Americans who are age 18-24 years old but only 10.6 percent of the 2006 recruits and 10.7 percent of the 2007 recruits. Individuals in the top two quintiles make up 40.0 percent of the population, but 49.3 percent of the recruits in both years."

What about the charge that our Army is disproportionately black? This too is false, as is clear from data for fiscal 2010 available on the Army's website: Whereas blacks comprise 17% of Americans ages 18-39 with high school degrees, they represent only a slightly larger proportion of enlisted soldiers, at 21%.

Meanwhile, whites were significantly overrepresented among enlisted Army personnel in 2010. While 58% of Americans 18-39 years old are white, 64% of the Army's enlisted men and women are. Whites are underrepresented to a minor degree in only one category, in which blacks are overrepresented: Army officers. While 74% of 25-54 year-olds with bachelor's degrees are white, 72% of Army officers are white. While 8% of 25-54 year-olds with B.A.s are black, 13% of Army officers are.

Is it true that with a shaky economy, blacks have been driven to enlist in the Army in dramatically increased numbers? The 2010 numbers say otherwise. While 60% of 18-24 year-olds with a high school degree are white and 17% are black, 64% of new enlistees are white and 19% are black.

Why do myths persist despite all the evidence? One reason is lack of firsthand exposure to the military: Doing a journalistic embed with American troops or visiting a U.S. military base—or simply having some friends in the military—would disabuse my acquaintances of their beliefs.

This detachment is the result of a withdrawal of our urban elites from military service. And it suits the interests of many members of the urban elite to believe that the military they do not join is composed of poor, uneducated victims of an unfair society.

The hidden assumption in this myth is that an institution that is heavily black is an inferior institution. The myth of the ghetto Army is as nastily racist as it is false.


I really excerpted more than Fair Use dictates, but I think it's important to make that point.

5 comments:

wally said...

Non-snarky post follows:
Good for you, Robert. We need to have our preconceptions challenged by actual facts. Thanks for this. (Now if you could post something factual that challenges your OWN preconceptions, that would be really cool.)

BobG said...

I think where this originated was during the Vietnam War; the draft was pulling in anyone who was unable to go to college due to either lack of money or lack of preparation. That was a time when black Americans didn't have as many education options as today, so many were either drafted or joined to get an education and some skills.

wally said...

Well, it pulled me in, for one. I had flunked out of college.

steve said...

I find this very interesting. How can I get a copy of your data sources?

Bob said...

@Steve: the link to the Wall Street Journal article is included in the post. That's as far as I can go in assisting you.