Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The low quality of US military recruits


The Heritage Foundation has just released a long, detailed research piece on this, particularly relevant given Senator Kerry's insinuation that if you are dumb you become a soldier and get stuck in Iraq. It's a bit long but worth the time. Snippets:

The current findings show that the demo­graphic characteristics of volunteers have contin­ued to show signs of higher, not lower, quality. Quality is a difficult concept to apply to soldiers, or to human beings in any context, and it should be understood here in context...

Indeed, in many criteria, each year shows advancement, not decline, in measurable qualities of new enlistees. For example, it is commonly claimed that the military relies on recruits from poorer neighborhoods because the wealthy will not risk death in war. This claim has been advanced without any rigorous evidence. Our review of Pen­tagon enlistee data shows that the only group that is lowering its participation in the military is the poor. The percentage of recruits from the poorest American neighborhoods (with one-fifth of the U.S. population) declined from 18 percent in 1999 to 14.6 percent in 2003, 14.1 percent in 2004, and 13.7 percent in 2005.
Recruits have a higher percent­age of high school graduates and representation from Southern and rural areas. No evidence indicates exploitation of racial minorities (either by race or by race-weighted ZIP code areas). Finally, the distri­bution of household income of recruits is noticeably higher than that of the entire youth population.
The estimate for mean household income of recruits increased every year from 2003 through 2005. The poorest areas continue to be underrep­resented, while middle-class areas are overrepre­sented. Although the richest income brackets are underrepresented, the difference between the recruit and population proportions for these brack­ets is less than 0.25 percent.

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