Who Serves in the U.S. Military? Mapping Enlisted Troops and Officers
According to the report (p. 13), “both active-duty enlisted troops and officers come disproportionately from high income neighborhoods—a trend that has increased since 9/11”. As can be seen from the chart on the left, only 11% of enlisted recruits in 2007 came from the poorest 1/5 (quintile) of neighborhoods, while 25% came from the wealthiest quintile. These trends are even more pronounced in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, in which 40 percent of enrollees come from the wealthiest neighborhoods. Also contrary to popular perceptions, U.S. military enlisted troops are not poorly educated. In fact, American soldiers are significantly more likely to have a high school diploma than their civilian peers: only 1.4% of enlisted recruits in 2007 had not graduated from high school or completed a high school equivalency degree, compared to 20.8% of the general male population in the age range between 18 and 24. Moreover, 95% of officer accessions have at least a bachelor’s degree.
Likewise, the conventional wisdom that minorities are overrepresented in the military is not supported by the facts. No clear racial imbalance is evident in regard to enlisted personnel. Among the officer corps, Caucasians are proportionately represented and African-Americans are overrepresented. American Indian and Alaskan natives are the most overrepresented group among new recruits. Asians and Pacific Islanders are slightly underrepresented. Hispanics are also underrepresented, with the troop-to-population ratio of 0.65 in 2007.
The regional origin of new recruits is more unbalanced, as the South is disproportionally represented, a tendency that remains “in line with the history of Southern military tradition” (p. 2). The southeastern states account for more than 40% of new enlistees. As can be seen from the map reproduced on the left, the Northeast is greatly underrepresented in regard to the enlisted population. The Midwest and the Pacific West regions are slightly underrepresented, while the Mountain West region is somewhat overrepresented. The regional distribution of newly commissioned officers is similar. Here again the South accounts for more than its fair share (42.5%) of new Army ROTC commissioned officers in 2006—almost 10% above the region’s proportional share. West Point cadets from the South account for 36.7% of all 2007 graduates, a disproportionally high figure. The Northeast in underrepresented among ROTC cadets, but the representation of this region in regard to U.S. military academy (USMA) graduates is proportional. The West is underrepresented in both ROTC and USMA. The Midwest is proportionally underrepresented among West Point graduates.
While regional figures suggest parallelism between enlistment rates and voting patterns—with “red states” considered more “militaristic” than “blue states”—a closer look at state-by-state level shows that the picture is more complex. In general, Democratic-voting states are underrepresented, and Republic-voting states are overrepresented (see map of the 2012 Presidential elections at the bottom of this post for comparison), but exceptions to this pattern are instructive as well. When it comes to enlisted personnel, several “blue states”—Maine, Oregon, and Hawaii—are overrepresented. (The same is true of several “purple” states, especially Florida and Nevada.) On the other hand, several “red states” are underrepresented, particularly North Dakota and Utah. The low proportion of enlisted troops from Utah is perhaps best explained by its heavily Mormon leaning, as most Mormons of military age engage in missionary activities. A number of “red states” are slightly underrepresented, including South Dakota, Nebraska, Indiana, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
In regard to the officer corps, the patterns are somewhat different, and ratios differ for new Army ROTC commissioned officers and West Point graduates. As with enlisted soldiers, a slight correlation between voting patterns and Army service exists, but exceptions stand out as well. ROTC enrollees tend to come from “red states”, but some “blue states” are overrepresented, including New Hampshire, Vermont, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and Hawaii (the latter is, in fact, overrepresented in all three categories of new military personnel). In contrast, three “red states” are underrepresented among ROTC enrollees: Arizona, Nebraska, and North Dakota.
As for West Point graduates, five generally Democrat-voting states—New Mexico, Hawaii, Oregon, Delaware, and Maine—are overrepresented, and six Republican-voting states are underrepresented: Louisiana, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, North Dakota, and Wyoming.
Interestingly, Hawaii is overrepresented in all three categories of Army personnel: enlisted troops, ROTC enrollees, and U.S. Military Academy graduates. Hawaii’s significant contribution to the U.S. military personnel is particularly interesting in light of the fact that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are underrepresented in the military, as mentioned above. Similarly, North Dakota is underrepresented in all three categories.
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