Best Defense

Population Representation in the Military Services: Endless fun for Tom once more!

When I was a reporter I used to devour the annual study of the demography of the U.S. military. I’d always find interesting facts and trends to write about, especially in the special study appendices that each year drilled deep into a particular topic. Some things I learned from the most recent study: –It clearly ...

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When I was a reporter I used to devour the annual study of the demography of the U.S. military. I’d always find interesting facts and trends to write about, especially in the special study appendices that each year drilled deep into a particular topic.

Some things I learned from the most recent study:

–It clearly is not a military drawn from the poor. Judged by income in census tracts, the highest and lowest quintiles of wealth are underrepresented in recruits, while the middle three quintiles, which I would call the upper middle class, the lower middle class, and the skilled working class—are overrepresented.

–Blacks are now “over-represented” in the Army officer corps—that is, blacks make up 9% of the equivalent civilian population, but 12.3% of Army officers.

–40% of all female U.S. military officers are in the health services.

–The Marine Corps is back to the size it was before the All Volunteer Force began. The Air Force, by contrast, is 46% of its size in 1973.

–In 2013, some 18,000 people from California joined the military, while just 169 did from North Dakota. Georgia, Florida and Idaho had the highest percentages of enlistees per population.

–More than 40% of recruits are coming from the South, fewer than 15% from the Northeast.

–25-year-old officers are more than twice as likely as their civilian peers to be married (55 percent to 21 percent).

–1 in 4 Air Force recruits wind up serving a full 20 years, while the number in recent years for the Marines has been 1 in 16.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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