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Changing Minority Representation in the U.S. Military


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The Department of Defense has always sought a socially representative enlisted force, especially with respect to African American and Hispanic minorities. Ideally, in a democratic society a military force should be representative of the nation it defends. African American overrepresentation was a major concern during the first decade of the All-Volunteer Force (AVF), while Hispanics were underrepresented. During the 1980s black representation stabilized and Hispanics began to increase, especially with respect to enlistments. Starting in the 1990s, black representation began to decline, followed more recently by declines among Hispanics. This article examines changes in minority representation since the inception of the AVF in 1973 and argues that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have played a significant role in recent changes.
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Armed Forces & Society
DOI: 10.1177/0095327X09339900
2010; 36; 223 originally published online Oct 20, 2009; Armed Forces & Society
David J. Armor and Curtis L. Gilroy
Changing Minority Representation in the U.S. Military
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DOI: 10.1177/0095327X09339900
Changing Minority
Representation in the
U.S. Military
David J. Armor
and Curtis L. Gilroy
The Department of Defense has always sought a socially representative enlisted
force, especially with respect to African American and Hispanic minorities. Ideally,
in a democratic society a military force should be representative of the nation it
defends. African American overrepresentation was a major concern during the first
decade of the All-Volunteer Force (AVF), while Hispanics were underrepresented.
During the 1980s black representation stabilized and Hispanics began to increase,
especially with respect to enlistments. Starting in the 1990s, black representation
began to decline, followed more recently by declines among Hispanics. This article
examines changes in minority representation since the inception of the AVF in 1973
and argues that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have played a significant role in
recent changes.
minorities, propensity, recruiting, social representation
The issue of minority representation in the U.S. military has a long and often contro-
versial history, particularly with respect to African American participation. The issues
have run the gamut of the race relations problems in the larger American society.
Before and during World War II, the issue was exclusion versus inclusion of black
combat units; at the beginning of the cold war, the issue was racial integration; and
during the early years of the All-Volunteer Force (AVF), a major issue was black over-
representation, especially in the Army.
At the beginning of the new millennium, we have come full circle, in a sense,
because the issue now is a dramatic drop in African American enlistments. It would be
George Mason University
U.S. Department of Defense
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224 Armed Forces & Society 36(2)
convenient if we could simply attribute this drop to the Iraq War, given the growing
unpopularity of that war throughout American society. However, the black enlistment
decline does not coincide with the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003. Rather, it started
with a large drop in 1991 right after Desert Storm, and it was followed by another
sharp drop in 2002 just after 9/11. Black enlistments across all services continued to
fall after the Iraq War and by 2006 constituted just 13 percent of all nonprior service
enlistments—the lowest level since the advent of the AVF.
However, the trend of
declining black enlistments may have reached a bottom that year, because it rose to
13.6 percent in 2007 and to 14.7 percent in 2008.
Interestingly, during the period when black enlistments were dropping, Hispanic
enlistments (as a share of all enlistments) were increasing steadily. Hispanic enlist-
ments did not post a decline until 2006, when they dropped to 13.8 percent from an
all-time high of 14.4 percent in 2005. In 2007, Hispanics accounted for 13.9 percent
of all enlistments. The increasing trend in Hispanic enlistments offset some but not all
of the black decline; the share of white enlistments increased from 63.0 percent in
2000 to 66.6 percent in 2007 before dropping to 64.4 percent in 2008.
What are behind these changes in minority enlistments? Are these temporary
shifts, or are we facing a new problem of black underrepresentation? Why should
black underrepresentation be seen as a problem; for that matter, why should we be
concerned about the representation of any particular racial or ethnic group in the mili-
tary? This article addresses these questions in the context of larger concerns about
social representation of the U.S. armed forces during a time of war. In addition, while
our primary goal is to explain the recent drop in black enlistments, we attempt to
identify factors that account for fluctuations in minority enlistments since the start of
the AVF.
Minority Representation in Context
The issue of black or minority representation is just one aspect of the broader concern
about maintaining a military force that reflects all segments of society, a long-standing
goal of American national security policy. At least one rationale for this policy grew
out of the theory of the citizen–soldier developed by Morris Janowitz and his students
(e.g., Charles Moskos).
This theory postulates a critical relationship between mainte-
nance of democratic values and a military composed of citizen–soldiers who see mili-
tary service as part of their obligation as citizens. A corollary of this theory is that
failure to maintain a representative military threatens the legitimacy and credibility of
a democratic political system and in the most extreme case could be a threat to it.
Although recent work of James Burk has criticized the citizen–soldier “ideal” as hav-
ing less applicability in today’s military and political environment, that critique has
not gone so far as to claim that social representation in the military is no longer
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Armor and Gilroy 225
Adequate social representation was less of a problem during the conscription era,
at least in theory, because universal service could tap all socioeconomic levels. But
when the United States adopted a volunteer military in 1973, there were major con-
cerns about whether the military services could maintain adequate social representa-
tion, especially with regard to race. Indeed, as explained in the comprehensive review
by Rostker, black overrepresentation became increasingly debated, especially in the
Army, aided in no small part by the well-known calibration error in the enlistment
aptitude test (discussed in more detail below).
In addition to political legitimacy,
increasing black enlistments raised social equity concerns about the burden of national
defense and combat casualties falling disproportionately on the most disadvantaged
sector of society. For these reasons, race became the most problematic issue for the
overall goal of social representation.
It is now well established that, after correcting the calibration error and raising pay
and benefits to be more competitive with the civilian sector, the AVF largely suc-
ceeded in creating and maintaining a socially representative force throughout most of
the 1980s and 1990s. Of course, there have been periods when certain groups have
been over- or underrepresented to some degree. But despite periodic claims in the
media and by some members of Congress (e.g., Congressman Rangel), empirical stud-
ies have shown that the enlisted military force as a whole is quite representative of
American society.
Furthermore, and perhaps most important from an equity stand-
point, even though blacks are still somewhat overrepresented in the Army active duty
enlisted force, a thorough study by Gifford demonstrates that they are not overrepre-
sented among combat casualties in the Iraq War.
Following a brief historical overview of racial representation up to the end of the
draft, the remainder of the article reviews racial and ethnic representation from 1973 to
the present, discussing the interaction among minority representation, enlistment stan-
dards, the civilian labor market, and changes in youth attitudes and propensity to serve
in the military. The ultimate goal of this analysis is to explain why black enlistments
have declined and whether we are heading toward a military that might underrepresent
minority groups. The analysis is limited to the active duty enlisted force.
The Historical Context
Although African Americans have taken part in all of America’s wars, until the middle
of the twentieth century military policies reflected the stereotypes of racial inferiority
and discrimination so prevalent in the broader civilian society.
About five thousand black militiamen participated in the American Revolutionary
War, and a small number participated in the naval battles in the War of 1812.
It was
not until the Civil War that blacks were permitted once again to bear arms. The first
national draft law was passed in 1863, and the states began to assemble all-black units.
About 390,000 blacks served in over 160 black regiments in that war for the Union
Army. After the Civil War, Congress created six black regiments in the regular Army,
which were used during the Indian Wars.
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226 Armed Forces & Society 36(2)
At the beginning of World War I, blacks accounted for about 11 percent of the U.S.
civilian population, and the selective service draft assured that approximately the
same proportion would serve in the military. Nearly all black soldiers were draftees
since few were allowed to enlist; most were assigned menial jobs. The Navy permitted
blacks to enlist, but the ten thousand blacks accounted for only 1 percent of naval
personnel. The Marine Corps accepted no black recruits.
On the eve of World War II, the Army remained segregated, and its mobilization
plans called for only 6 percent black representation in the enlisted force.
No African
Americans were permitted to enlist in the Army Air Corps. The Army’s commitment
to a white officer corps was evidenced by the fact that there were only five black Army
officers, three of whom were chaplains.
Although the Selective Service and Training
Act of 1940 stipulated that the selection of enlistees should not discriminate “on
account of race or color,” the final determination as to who could enlist was left to the
individual services. The Army believed that since segregation was part of American
life, it was part of the military establishment as well, and the Army should not be a
laboratory for social experimentation.
Demands of the war compelled the Army to enlist more blacks. In 1942, the Navy
relaxed its restrictions, and the Marine Corps recruited black enlistees for the first
time. In 1944, there were over 700,000 blacks serving in the Army, accounting for 8.7
percent of total manpower, the highest proportion during the war. About 167,000
blacks served in the Navy during the war, representing about 4 percent; over 17,000
blacks (2.5 percent) were serving in the Marine Corps.
After the war, many black
soldiers wanted to remain in the Army because of better opportunities than in the civil-
ian sector. On July 26, 1948, President Truman issued Executive Order 9981, declar-
ing “equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without
regard to race, color, religion, of national origin.”
The outbreak of the Korean conflict still found a segregated Army, despite the
desegregation order. Yet blacks enlisted in such large numbers that, in 1951, about 25
percent of all new recruits were black. This influx, coupled with a shortage of white
personnel, essentially forced the Army to integrate units. Indeed, “the Korean conflict
was the coup de grace for desegregation in the Army,”
supporting the hypothesis that
the more contact white soldiers had with black soldiers, the more favorable their atti-
tude toward racial integration was.
Also, research had found that “integration
enhances the effectiveness of the Army” and recommended that “the Army commit
itself to a policy of integration to be carried out as rapidly as operational efficiency
One year after the end of the Korean conflict—on October 30, 1954—the Pentagon
announced that all-black units had been abolished.
The fact that the military had
moved so far ahead of civilian society in racial equality led Charles Moskos to remark
that Army posts were “islands of integration in a sea of Jim Crow.”
The military had
offered opportunities—training, steady employment, higher earnings, and leadership
that were simply unavailable in the civilian sector. According to Daniel Patrick Moyni-
han, the military had “much to offer men with . . . limited current options. . . . Negroes
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Armor and Gilroy 227
are entitled to a larger share of employment in the armed forces . . . [which] has
become an immensely potent instrument for education and occupational mobility.”
Moynihan also felt that many blacks and poor whites were unable to meet the mili-
tary’s enlistment standards and, as a result, “missed their chance to get in touch with
American society.” To address this concern, the Johnson administration, as part of its
Great Society initiative, convinced the Department of Defense (DoD) to assist with
the war on poverty. Project One Hundred Thousand was instituted as an experimental
program whereby 100,000 men, who normally would have been denied enlistment on
aptitude and educational grounds, were processed annually. Between 1966 and 1969,
nearly 250,000 “New Standards Men” entered the military. Forty percent were black,
about one-half were from the South, and approximately one-half were draftees. The
majority of Project recruits were assigned to low-skilled jobs, and about one-third
were assigned to combat positions. Over one-half of those who entered the Army and
Marine Corps went to Vietnam.
Ironically, some black leaders questioned the wisdom of blacks joining the military,
especially as the Vietnam War expanded. They were particularly concerned that the
armed forces were drafting the black community’s best and brightest young men—the
“cream of the crop”—”the potential forces of leadership . . . in the battle cry for free-
dom at home.”
By 1969, blacks accounted for about 10.5 percent of the enlisted force, just under
the proportion of blacks of similar age in the total U.S. population.
That year, Presi-
dent Nixon appointed the Gates Commission to study the efficacy of an all-volunteer
The inequity of the draft, the unpopularity of the Vietnam War, the civil
rights movement, and general social unrest led many to believe that the country should
procure its military manpower in a significantly different way. Indeed, in 1970 the
Gates Commission concluded that the draft should be ended and replaced with an all-
volunteer force.
The debate over ending the draft was intense, and there was considerable opposi-
tion to replacing a conscripted force with volunteers. As described by Martin Ander-
son, special assistant to President Nixon, an AVF “was opposed by most of the military
establishment, by many members of Congress, by most of Nixon’s national security
advisers, and by a large segment of the media,” including the New York Times.
Despite the controversy, Nixon recommended and Congress approved the shift to an
all-voluntary force beginning in 1973.
Minority Representation in the Volunteer Era
One of the major arguments against an all-volunteer military was a concern that it
would not represent all segments of society and that it would rely more heavily on the
lower socioeconomic classes. Senator Edward Kennedy, in particular, expressed a
view held my many “that a volunteer force during wartime would be mercenary, com-
posed mostly of the poor, black, and uneducated.”
But ironically this was not the
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228 Armed Forces & Society 36(2)
view held by many black leaders. Dr. Ralph Abernathy, president of the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference, pointed out that this argument was used mostly by
I know of no black organization, I know of no organization of the poor or leader-
ship of such an organization which supports the proposition that a draft should be
maintained in order to keep from getting a volunteer Army made up of all blacks
or all poor whites.
The Gates Commission addressed the composition of the force, particularly the con-
cern that the volunteer military would become “too black.” Those who held this view
argued that the higher pay required for a volunteer force would be especially appealing
to blacks who had poor civilian opportunities relative to whites. Black service mem-
bers already had higher reenlistment rates, and some believed that a volunteer force
would lead to a disproportionate number of blacks entering military service. White
enlistment and reenlistment rates would decline, leading to a black-dominated enlisted
force. Also, as noted earlier, some black leaders felt that the military would be “cream-
ing” qualified black youth for service—drawing them away from the civilian com-
munity where their talents were needed.
The Gates Commission acknowledged these arguments and predicted that the force
would not become predominantly black with the end of conscription. It showed that
among those who volunteered for service at that time, blacks were approximately
proportional to the total population. Second, it pointed out that a relatively large pro-
portion of black applicants would be ineligible to enlist because of educational and
aptitude requirements. Considering demographic trends, eligibility characteristics,
and the impact of increased compensation on future enlistment rates, the Gates Com-
mission forecast that by 1980 black representation in the enlisted forces would be
about 19.0 percent in the Army (and 15.0 percent overall)—up from the 1969 rate of
10.5 percent.
But the Gates Commission was not concerned about what proportion of blacks
served in the military, and it believed that policy makers should not lose sight of the
real issue: if higher pay makes opportunities in the military more attractive than those
in the civilian sector for a particular segment of society, then the appropriate response
is to correct whatever inequities there are in the civilian sector. Former Congressman
Les Aspin, in extolling the virtues of the AVF more than twenty years later, remarked,
Today, we have a race-neutral voluntary system that produces a superb military
while offering individuals advancement on the basis of merit. If that makes the
military more attractive to minority members of society than job prospects in
the society at large, then it is society at large that is broken. Let’s fix that.
The DoD position on racial composition was clear, as enumerated in Secretary Melvin
Laird’s report to Congress in 1972:
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Armor and Gilroy 229
To the extent that large numbers of low income youth apply [to the military], so
much the better for them, the Armed Forces, and the nation. . . . We are deter-
mined that the All Volunteer Force shall have broad appeal to young men and
women of all racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds.
The report could also have noted that it would have been against the law to discrimi-
nate against the enlistment of blacks or any other group.
The argument that blacks would bear a disproportionate burden of an all-volunteer
military mixes up “service by free choice” with “compulsory service,” the Gates Com-
mission noted.
With conscription, some blacks are compelled to serve at earnings below what
they would earn in the civilian economy. Blacks who join a voluntary force
presumably have decided for themselves that military service is preferable to
other alternatives. . . . They regard military service as a more rewarding oppor-
tunity, not as a burden. Denial of this opportunity would reflect either bias or a
paternalistic belief that blacks are not capable of making the “right” decisions
concerning their lives.
In the early years of the volunteer military, it appeared that the Gates Commission
forecast of black representation of the force was correct. However, beginning in 1976
there was a dramatic increase in the proportion of blacks in the enlisted force—
particularly for the Army and Marine Corps. Black representation rose from 24 to 33
percent in the Army and from 17 to 22 percent in the Marine Corps between 1976 and
1980 (see Figure 1). Some of this sharp increase was caused by a problem in scoring
the military aptitude test used to determine eligibility for service.
Even after the scoring problem was resolved, black representation in the active
duty force remained relatively high, in part because of higher black reenlistment rates,
especially in the Army (see Figure 7 and the related discussion below). Black repre-
sentation did not fall appreciably until the start of the Afghanistan War in 2001.
Changes in Minority Accessions
The proportion of blacks in the enlisted force is largely driven by changes in acces-
sions. The 1976 to 1980 surge in black enlistments caused by the aptitude test problem
was even more dramatic, as shown in Figure 2 for all services.
For DoD as a whole,
black representation rose from 18 percent in 1975 to 26 percent in 1979, then it fell
back to 18 percent in 1983. The swings for the Army were especially pronounced,
beginning at 19 percent in 1976, rising to 37 percent in 1979, and then falling back to
22 percent by 1983.
Figure 2 shows several other significant shifts in the proportion of black accessions.
There was a gradual increase in black representation during the 1980s, ending with a
sharp drop of 5 percentage points in 1991 coinciding with the first Gulf War (Desert
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230 Armed Forces & Society 36(2)
Marine Corps
Air Force
ASVAB Misnorming
Figure 1. Blacks as a Proportion of the Active Duty Enlisted Force, 1973–2008
Source: U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Manpower Data Center.
Note: With the exception of the survey data in Figure 6, which are based on national probability samples,
data in all other figures and tables are based on total populations.
ASVAB misnorming
Gulf War
9/11, Afghan. War
Figure 2. Accession Representation of the Active Duty Enlisted Force by Race and
Ethnicity, 1973–2008
Source: U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Manpower Data Center.
Note: Data for 1976 not available.
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Armor and Gilroy 231
Storm). Black representation began to trend upward again during the 1990s, almost
reaching the 1980s high, and then it took a second sharp drop of 5 percentage points in
2002 following the 9/11 attack and the start of the Afghanistan War. Unlike the 1980s
and 1990s, black representation continued to decline, and by 2006 the percentage was at
its lowest level since the end of the Vietnam War—13 percent.
The decline in black
representation ended there because it rose in both 2007 and 2008.
In contrast to black representation, Figure 2 also shows that the trends in Hispanic
representation have been less volatile. The aptitude test error caused a small boost in
Hispanic accessions from 1977 to 1980, but the impact was far less dramatic than that
for blacks. Beginning in the mid-1980s, Hispanic representation had shown a rela-
tively steady increase, and by 2005 Hispanics represented 14.4 percent of all active
duty accessions. Hispanic representation did not show declines after either the first
Gulf War or 9/11, although it did drop by one-half percentage point in 2006, before
rising to 14.7 percent in 2008—its highest level. This compares to the 17.8 percent of
Hispanics among the eighteen- to twenty-four-year-old population that year. Signifi-
cantly, 2005 and 2006 were the first years that Hispanic representation exceeded black
representation, albeit by very small amounts.
Understanding Changes in Military Representation
We argue that five factors help explain the trends in black and Hispanic enlistments.
These factors are the size of the military force itself, the size of youth population, the
military’s aptitude and education requirements, civilian labor market conditions, and
the “propensity” or willingness of youth to serve in the military. These are not neces-
sarily mutually exclusive; for example, force size requirements are not specific to any
racial or ethnic group, but they interact with aptitude and education requirements in
ways that affect minority accessions. Nonetheless, we discuss each factor in turn.
Force Size, Accessions, and Youth Supply
The size of the active military force, coupled with reenlistment rates, determines the
number of accessions needed each year to maintain a constant force size. Accessions,
then, are really a residual or derivative of retention and force structure. When the size of
the force is large, accession requirements are also high, and therefore a larger proportion
of youth is required. If the number of youth is decreasing in the population, as it was
during the 1980s, or is small relative to the size of the force, then recruiting becomes
more difficult in a voluntary environment, assuming constant reenlistment rates.
Figure 3 shows the number of youth eighteen to twenty-four years old in the civil-
ian population from 1970 to 2007. Also shown is the number of annual accessions
needed to maintain the active force during that period.
Accession requirements were
very large during the Vietnam War, and as that war was ending there was a correspond-
ing reduction in accessions. By the mid-1970s that reduction was complete, and acces-
sions stabilized at about 300,000 to maintain an active duty force size of approximately
1.8 million members until the mid-1980s.
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232 Armed Forces & Society 36(2)
In some respects, the accession decline was fortuitous because the youth popula-
tion, which had been growing because of the 1950s baby boom, reached a peak in the
1989 to 1991 time frame and then began to decline, bottoming out in 1997. Given the
decline in youth supply, it is fortunate that the cold war ended in 1989, making a per-
manent reduction possible in the total active enlisted force.
In the late 1980s, the active enlisted force began to decline substantially, reaching
about 1.2 million members by 1996, and accessions declined as well to a steady state
of about 180,000 that same year. This was the result of a force drawdown brought
about by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet Union. At the same
time, the youth population began an increasing trend that is expected to continue until
about 2012.
The percentage of blacks in the eighteen- to twenty-four-year-old civilian popula-
tion was about 12.0 percent in 1976 and rose gradually to 14.3 percent by 2007. The
percentage of Hispanic youth increased more rapidly—from about 6.0 percent in 1976
to nearly 17.8 percent in 2007.
These changes in accessions and youth supply do not directly affect racial and eth-
nic representation because no military service sets specific targets or goals for minori-
ties. Rather, the impact is indirect because of a complex interaction between the supply
of youth who want to serve in the military and those who are also eligible for
Youth Population 18-24 (000)
Enlisted Accessions (000)
Youth Pop
Figure 3. Enlisted Accessions and the Civilian Youth Population (Eighteen to Twenty-four),
Source: U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Manpower Data Center, and the U.S. Bureau of the Census.
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Armor and Gilroy 233
enlistment according to aptitude and other enlistment standards. That interaction and
how it affects minority representation are explained in the next two sections.
Enlistment Standards
Although the military sets specific medical, conduct, education, and aptitude stan-
dards for enlistment into the Armed Services, our focus here is on education and apti-
tude standards.
To be eligible for enlistment, recruits should be high school graduates and must
score at or above the tenth percentile on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT).
The military prefers recruits with high school diplomas and who score above the fifti-
eth percentile on the AFQT. Some recruits are drawn from those who score between
the thirtieth and forty-ninth percentiles. Very few accessions—typically less than 5
percent—come from persons without traditional diplomas or who score below the
thirtieth percentile on the AFQT (also called category IV).
High school diploma graduates are desired because they are much more likely to
complete their first term of service than are holders of other high school credentials.
About 80 percent of recruits with a diploma complete their initial three-year term,
compared to only 50 percent of those who did not complete high school. For those
who received alternative credentials—including the general education development
(GED) certificate and those schooled at home—only about 60 percent, on average,
completed three years of service.
Recruits who score above the fiftieth percentile on the AFQT are desired because
they are easier to train and perform better on the job. Initial aptitude is a good predictor
of performance. Performance for personnel improves with experience as one would
expect, but high aptitude personnel have been found to exhibit higher performance
across all experience levels. These standards have been validated against expected
performance in military occupations, and a body of statistical evidence confirms this
These enlistment standards can have a considerable impact on minority represen-
tation because both educational attainment and aptitude differ by race and ethnicity.
In terms of education, for example, the disparity between high school graduation
rates of black and white youth was large in the 1970s and early 1980s, and this had
some effect on enlistment eligibility during those years. But by the mid-1980s the
rate for blacks rose above the 75 percent mark, where it has hovered until today. The
rate for white youth has held steady in the 82 to 84 percent range over this thirty-five-
year period. So in recent years educational attainment has been less of a factor in
black representation. The story is quite different for Hispanic youth, however, where
the percentage of youth who say they graduated from high school was only about 55
percent throughout the 1970s and had risen to only 66 percent by 2007.
With respect to aptitude, Table 1 shows the distribution of AFQT aptitude catego-
ries by race and ethnicity. Persons scoring below the tenth percentile (category V) are
not eligible for enlistment by statute. Note that in 1997 only 3 percent of white youth
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234 Armed Forces & Society 36(2)
in the American civilian youth population were in category V, compared to 16 percent
of black youth and 11 percent of Hispanics. In contrast, 63 percent of white youth
scored in categories I to IIIA, compared to only 26 percent of blacks and 31 percent of
Although white youth are more likely to score in categories I to IIIA than are black
youth, the aptitude gap closed appreciably between 1980 and 1997. Only 15 percent
of black youth fell in these upper categories in 1980, compared to 26 percent in 1997.
This aptitude improvement, which has been widely documented, shifts more black
youth into the most desirable recruit categories.
Figure 4 shows trends in the percentage of nonprior service accessions that were in
categories IIIB or IV. The Army is the only service shown because it was particularly
affected by the AFQT scoring error in the late 1970s. The other services resemble the
DoD pattern. The impact of the error is clear between 1977 and 1980, and it also
explains the very large surge in black enlistments during those same years (Figure 2).
Unknowingly, the Army recruited approximately 50 percent category IV recruits in
those four years, and they composed about one-third of all DoD recruits. As soon as
the error was corrected, and following an increase in recruiting resources, a significant
pay raise, and high level attention to enlisting quality recruits, the percentage of cate-
gory IV recruits fell to single digits by the mid-1980s and then dropped to between 1
and 2 percent between 1991 and 2004.
Thus, the trend in category IV recruits
between 1975 and 1985 tracks very closely with the trend in black accessions because
a large majority of black youth fell into categories IIIB and IV during these years.
While the proportion of category IV recruits had remained small after 1990, there was
a slight increase beginning in 2005, particularly in the Army, and an even larger increase
in category IIIB recruits. This reflects a more challenging recruiting environment brought
on by the Iraq War and a growing economy. It should be noted, however, that the percent-
age of category IV recruits remains at or below 4 percent in all of the services.
Table 1. Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) Category Distributions of the Eighteen- to
Twenty-three-year-old Civilian Population by Race/ethnicity, 1980 and 1997 (in Percentages)
1980 1997
or Other
or Other
I, II 65–99 14 8 43 36 17 12 45 37
IIIA 50–64 9 7 17 15 14 14 18 17
IIIB 31–49 17 16 19 18 22 24 20 21
IV 10–30 36 39 17 21 37 34 13 20
V 1–9 24 31 5 9 10 16 3 6
Total 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Source: Profile of American Youth, 1980 and 1997.
Note: Because of rounding, percentages may not add to 100.
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Armor and Gilroy 235
Civilian Labor Market Conditions
The state of the economy in general and labor market conditions in particular play a
significant role in the services’ recruiting success—becoming more challenging when
the economy improves and unemployment is low and less challenging when the econ-
omy dips and unemployment rises. How do labor market conditions affect African
American enlistments?
Tracing the share of black enlistments since 1980 in Figure 5 shows that the propor-
tion increases when unemployment falls and decreases when unemployment rises.
That is, in a tight labor market with jobs scarce and unemployment troughs during the
peak of a business cycle, relatively more higher aptitude whites found jobs in the civil-
ian sector, leaving more openings in the military for black recruits. When civilian
labor markets loosen and jobs are plentiful with unemployment rising from its trough,
relatively more whites are sought out by the military, “squeezing out” some African
These cyclical effects are borne out by statistical analysis, which shows that
the proportion of black enlistments to total enlistments fluctuates significantly as
unemployment changes. Specifically, over the 1988 to 2005 period, a 10 percent
increase (decrease) in the unemployment rate would be expected to result in an 11
percent drop (rise) in the proportion of African American enlistments.
Army IV
Figure 4. Nonprior Service Enlisted Active Duty Accessions for Army and Department of
Defense, by Selected Aptitude Categories, 1973–2008
Source: U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Manpower Data Center.
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236 Armed Forces & Society 36(2)
The post-2003 period is an anomaly, however, with both the proportion of black
enlistments and unemployment falling. As illustrated in Table 2, a disproportionate
share of category IIIB recruits is minority, and thus one might expect that the upturn
in category IIIB and IV recruits beginning in 2005 would correspond to a similar
upturn in black accessions. According to Figures 1 and Figures 5, however, that is not
happening, and, in fact, there has actually been a decrease in black accessions. To
explain this inconsistency, we must turn to our fifth factor, the propensity for military
Black Accessions
Figure 5. Black Enlisted Active Duty Accessions and Civilian Unemployment, 1983–2008
Source: U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Manpower Data Center and U.S. Department of Labor,
Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Note: Unemployment data are for calendar years, and accession data are for fiscal years.
Table 2. Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) Distribution of Nonprior Service Enlisted
Accessions by Race/ethnicity, 2004 (in Percentages)
Category Hispanic Black White
I, II 32 25 49
IIIA 30 30 30
IIIB 37 45 22
IV 1 1 0
Source: Department of Defense, Population Representation in the Military Services, FY 2004.
Note: AFQT category V individuals are not included because they are not permitted by law to enlist.
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Armor and Gilroy 237
The Middle East Wars and Changing Propensity
The factors described so far explain some of the larger historical changes in minor-
ity representation. However, there are three shifts in minority representation—particu-
larly African American—which are not explained by force size, youth supply,
enlistment standards, or economic or labor market fluctuations. The first two are the
sharp drops in black enlistments in 1991 and 2002, and the third is the decline begin-
ning in 2006 of both black and Hispanic accessions.
We believe that these changes reflect a change in the desire and willingness to serve
in the military on the part of minority youth. This conclusion is based on surveys
designed to assess the likelihood of military service as self-reported by youth. These
“propensity” surveys, as they are called, have been carried out annually (sometimes
more frequently) since 1984.
While the surveys are not necessarily accurate in predicting what individual youth do, the
aggregate percentage of youth who say they intend to enlist predicts rates of actual
enlistments among various population subgroups.
In addition, questions that solicit
intentions to enlist are not simply anticipation of future behavior but measure underlying
attitudinal dimensions and a “taste for service.” Thus, propensity surveys are useful for
tracking and understanding youth attitudes toward the military and military service.
Figure 6 shows the long-term trends in the propensity of American youth for mili-
tary service by race and ethnicity. Until 1989, black propensity for military service
was substantially higher than both Hispanic and white propensity. This is consistent
with actual enlistment experience during those years, when blacks applied for enlist-
ment at a higher rate than did whites, and it explains the large surge in black enlist-
ments following the AFQT scoring problem in the late 1970s.
Black propensity dropped sharply from 1989 to 1992, which corresponds to the first
Gulf War, although it remained higher than white propensity. It fell from nearly 35 per-
cent to about 20 percent for the remainder of the 1990s, compared to about 10 percent
for whites. Black propensity fell again in 2001, and this decline occurred about the same
time as the 9/11 attack and the start of the Afghanistan War. Propensity then stabilized at
about the 15 percent level through 2004. Both of these declines in black propensity cor-
responded to the sharp drops in black enlistments in both 1990 and 2002. Thus, we have
two independent sources of data, propensity and enlistments, that confirm black interest
in military service has been adversely affected by the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Inter-
estingly, since 2001, black propensity has been only slightly higher than that for whites,
which reflects a major change from earlier years.
In 2006, black propensity dipped again to 9 percent, its lowest level since the start
of youth tracking surveys. However, black propensity increased slightly in 2007, and
then it rebounded to nearly 15 percent in 2008, very close to the average black propen-
sity between 2001 and 2005. Like the black accession numbers in Figure 2, black
propensity appears to have bottomed in 2006.
Hispanic propensity changed very little between 1984 and 2005, hovering around
25 percent, seemingly unaffected by the Gulf and Iraq Wars. Like for black youth,
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238 Armed Forces & Society 36(2)
there was a sizeable drop in Hispanic propensity in 2006, and the drop for Hispanics
continued into 2007. White propensity also declined in 2006 and 2007. An explanation
for this broader decline could be the growing unpopularity of the Iraq War, which
became a heated issue during the 2006 congressional election campaigns and the
debate over a troop “surge.” According to the Gallup Poll, the proportion of the popu-
lation who felt it was a mistake to send troops to Iraq became a solid majority for the
first time in early 2006.
In 2008, however, propensity rose for all groups. Hispanic propensity rose to 16
percent and white propensity rose to 11 percent—very close to the white level through-
out the 1990s. The increase in propensity for all groups in 2008 can probably be attrib-
uted to an improved situation in Iraq, where neighborhoods are safer and military
casualties are significantly lower than during the previous three or four years. Although
minority propensity has not returned to its pre-2000 levels, the data suggest that the
most severe downturn may be over.
Unlike the recent changes in Hispanic and white propensities, the downward trend
in black propensity requires more explanation because it has gone on so long. We
think there are two major reasons, albeit interrelated. The first is that over the past
twenty years a growing economy has provided black youth with attractive alternatives
to military service. Unemployment over the past five years has been low, the job market
tight, and earnings up. What we are witnessing today, perhaps, is the end of an era where
blacks perceived better job and career opportunities in the military than in the civilian
sector. While neither sector has eliminated all racial discrimination, opportunities for
Figure 6. Youth Propensity for Military Service by Race/ethnicity, 1984–2008 (Percentage
Saying They Would Definitely or Probably Serve)
Source: U.S. Department of Defense, Joint Advertising, Market Research and Studies Program.
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Armor and Gilroy 239
African Americans in the civilian sector have clearly improved compared to the 1980s,
and the decline in black propensity for military service has changed partly in response
to these civilian opportunities.
Second, blacks have been more critical of the Gulf and Iraq Wars than whites.
Many black leaders expressed strong opposition to Operation Desert Storm, espe-
cially the Reverend Jesse Jackson, members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and
At the start of the Afghanistan War in 2001, when the white population was
nearly unanimous in support, a significant minority of black adults was opposed to
that operation.
The difference between black and white adults was even more strik-
ing before the start of the current Iraq War. During the winter before the war, 58
percent of white adults favored the invasion, compared to 37 percent who opposed it,
while only 37 percent of blacks favored the invasion and 56 percent opposed.
The DoD youth surveys taken between 1990 and 1992 revealed similar black–
white differences about the first Gulf War (Desert Shield and Desert Storm), and
moreover these attitudes can be linked directly to lower propensity. For example, in
the 1990 survey taken after Desert Shield but before Desert Storm, youth were
asked if that action would make them more or less likely to enlist. About 29 percent of
white youth said “less likely,” compared to 44 percent of black youth and
36 percent of other races.
While it would be beyond the scope of this article to assess all the reasons for these
differences, we note that the propensity story may go beyond these recent military
actions. The youth surveys also asked about propensity to enlist “if you felt it were
necessary for the U.S. to fight in some future war,” and the propensity rates in this
question were compared to those for the standard propensity question. In 1990, a “nec-
essary war” raised propensity to 52 percent for white youth (5 percent were lower),
compared to only 33 percent for black youth (17 percent were lower). These findings
are consistent with observations by Gifford, Moskos, and others that more blacks
than whites enter the military for economic reasons rather than a desire to serve in
Retention Rates and Composition
of the Active Enlisted Force
The composition of the active enlisted force is determined by both accessions and
retention rates. We have seen that the Iraq War has had an impact on accessions and
propensity; what about its effect on retention?
Historically, black enlisted members have reenlisted at higher rates than their white
counterparts, and Figure 7 shows that this relationship has continued throughout the
1990s. There was a downturn in reenlistments in the year following the start of the Iraq
War in 2003, and the downturn affected the Army more than the other services. How-
ever, reenlistment rates began to increase in 2005, and those increases have continued
every year since then. By 2008, reenlistment rates for blacks had exceeded their levels
in the late 1990s, and they were even higher for whites. Indeed, nearly all services
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240 Armed Forces & Society 36(2)
achieved their reenlistment goals in 2008. For DoD as a whole, black reenlistment
rates are still higher than those for whites, but the gap has narrowed from about 15
percentage points in the mid-1990s to about 5 percentage points in 2008.
The Future of Minority Representation
The racial and ethnic makeup of the U.S. military forces has undergone considerable
change since the advent of the volunteer military, particularly for the Army. During the
early years there was concern about overrepresentation of black enlistees. In 1979,
blacks accounted for slightly over 30 percent of the Army’s enlisted force and 37 per-
cent of new recruits. By the late 1980s, the proportion of black recruits in the Army
had declined to 25 percent; across all services that number was 20 percent, and the
military looked much more like a representative cross section of the U.S. population.
Hispanic representation also steadily improved during the early years of the volunteer
Beginning with the first Gulf War, black enlistments declined sharply before
rebounding somewhat. But another decline since 9/11 has left the proportion of black
recruits (14.7 percent) at about the same level as the black eighteen- to twenty-four-
year-old youth population—14.8 percent. Although some commentators have attrib-
uted this decline to the “Bush” Iraq War starting in 2003, the propensity trends suggest
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Army White
Army Black
Dod White
Dod Black
Figure 7. First-term Reenlistment Rates, Fiscal Years 1997–2007 (Estimated by Continuation
Rates in Fourth Year of Service)
Source: Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness).
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Armor and Gilroy 241
a more complex explanation.
The largest drops in black propensity occurred after the
first Gulf War, which ended quickly and was not controversial among the general
population. The second largest drop did not coincide with start of the Iraq War in 2003,
but rather it occurred in 2001 right after 9/11 and the start of the Afghanistan War.
The higher level of black propensity during the 1980s may be in part because of
their greater desire to seek employment in the military, where racial discrimination
was perceived to be lower and opportunities greater than in the civilian sector. To the
extent this is true, wars of any type might make military service less attractive for
those who see the military primarily in terms of job opportunities. At a time of war,
enlistment in the military is primarily motivated by a desire to serve one’s country. In
that respect, it is encouraging that all three groups—black, Hispanic, and white—had
about the same level of propensity as in 2007.
While the coming end to the Iraq War might be a positive factor for black propensity,
the expansion of the Afghanistan War is a countervailing factor. The deterioration of the
economy might be a factor for increasing propensity, but the historic election of our
first African American president might signal significantly less job discrimination in
the civilian sector. Perhaps these two events will offset each other. Certainly, having an
African American as the Commander in Chief should have important symbolic value to
black youth who may be contemplating military service.
The most encouraging development, however, is that the sharp declines in minority
enlistments and propensity appear to have ended, and both of these indicators are now
pointing in a positive direction. Even if black interest in military careers does not
return to the high levels witnessed in the 1990s, stabilization at current levels of par-
ticipation would generate a reasonable degree of black representation. Coupled with
the resumption of rising Hispanic interest, which is encouraging given the increasing
Hispanic population, minority participation in the military may well be poised to
attain its most representative levels since the advent of the AVF. In that respect, we
will be that much closer to the ideals of the citizen–soldier.
Technical Appendix
Beginning in January 2003, The Office of Management and Budget directed all agen-
cies within the federal government, including the Department of Defense (DoD), to
change the way individual race and ethnicity information was collected and reported
(62 CR 58782-58790). Under the new guidance, an ethnicity question determines
Hispanic origin and then a race question enquires about racial origins; more than one
race may be selected, which allows a person to have multiple races. DoD also initially
allowed individuals the option to select “decline to answer,” but this was an error that
was corrected starting in 2008.
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242 Armed Forces & Society 36(2)
The new counting rules create a comparability problem with the way race/ethnicity
was determined from 1973 to 2002, when “Hispanic” was included as a category in a
single race/ethnicity question and “multiple race” and “decline to answer” categories
were not available. To have trend data comparable to the earlier minority categories
used by DoD, the race/ethnic data after 2002 were recoded. Since more than 80 per-
cent of Hispanics chose “white” in the race question (only 5 percent chose “black”),
our rules were as follows: (1) Hispanics are coded first, (2) race is then allocated for
non-Hispanics, and (3) all persons selecting two or more races are coded as “other
race.” Furthermore, the race/ethnic percentages are computed excluding “decline to
answer,” which assumes that persons who decline to answer the race or ethnic ques-
tion are distributed according to the racial distribution of those who do answer. The
only major potential classification errors are for Hispanic blacks since we do not
know how many would answer “black” in a single race/ethnicity question. In recent
years, however, we know that they constitute only about 0.7 percent of enlistments,
so shifting some black Hispanics from Hispanic to black should not alter the repre-
sentation percentages by a significant degree.
A comparison of the official DoD race/ethnicity percentages to the mutually exclu-
sive estimates in Figure 2 is shown in Table 3. Note that our Hispanic figures are
about 0.5 percentage points higher than the official numbers, while the black rates are
virtually identical. The largest differences occur for whites because most Hispanics
are also counted as whites. The differences for “other” are because of counting
“decline to answer” as other races. Note that the official DoD numbers do not add up
to 100 percent.
Appendix (continued)
Table 3. Racial/ethic Comparisons, Official versus Mutually
Exclusive Categories (in Percentages)
Department of Defense Official
(not mutually exclusive)
Mutually Exclusive
Year White Black Other Hispanic White Black Other Hispanic
2003 75.8 15.0 9.2 11.5 66.1 15.1 5.9 12.4
2004 73.1 14.5 12.4 13.2 65.2 14.5 6.8 13.5
2005 73.1 13.1 13.8 13.9 65.7 13.2 6.7 14.4
2006 75.4 13.0 11.6 13.3 66.9 13.0 6.2 13.8
2007 76.2 13.6 10.2 13.5 66.6 13.6 5.9 13.9
2008 75.2 15.0 9.8 14.3 64.4 14.7 6.1 14.7
Source: Defense Manpower Data Center.
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Armor and Gilroy 243
Author’s Note
The authors would like to thank Dennis Drogo and John Jessup of the Office of Accession
Policy and Richard Moreno of the Defense Manpower Data Center for technical assistance in
gathering and helping to analyze data for this article. In addition, important data and helpful
comments on earlier drafts were received from Andrea Zucker, Joint Advertising, Market
Research and Studies Program, Defense Human Resources Activity; Michael B. Williams,
Major, USMC, also made useful suggestions.
1. These three issues have been identified as major “themes” of race in American armed
forces; Brenda L. Moore, “Race in the United States Military,” in Armed Forces and Inter-
national Security, ed. Jean Callaghan and Franz Kernic (Muenster, Germany: LIT Verlag,
2. In this report, the percentages by race and ethnicity from 2003 and beyond may differ from
the official Department of Defense (DoD) numbers. This is because we wanted to ensure
the data were comparable to the race/ethnicity percentages from 1973 to 2002. Percent-
ages for blacks are affected by less than .1 percentage point, while those for Hispanics are
affected by about .5 percentage points. See the Technical Appendix for a discussion of how
we have calculated these estimates.
3. Morris Janowitz, The Reconstruction of Patriotism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1983). Also see Morris Janowitz, “The Social Demography of the All-volunteer Armed
Force,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences 406 (March
1973); and Morris Janowitz and Charles C. Moskos, “Racial Composition in the All-volun-
teer Force,” Armed Forces & Society 19 (Fall 1974): 109-23.
4. James Burk, “Theories of Democratic Civil-military Relations,” Armed Forces & Society
29 (Fall 2002): 7-29.
5. Bernard Rostker, I Want You! The Evolution of the All-volunteer Force (Santa Monica, CA:
RAND, 2006), chap. 10, 320-29. The calibration error is discussed in chap. 11, 392-400.
6. Congressional Budget Office, The All-volunteer Service: Issues and Performance (Wash-
ington, DC: Congressional Budget Office, July 2007); Tim Kane, Who Are the Recruits?
(Washington, DC: Heritage Foundation, October 2006); Shanea Watkins and James Sherk,
Who Serves in the U.S. Military? (Washington, DC: Heritage Foundation, August 2008).
7. Brian Gifford, “Combat Casualties and Race: What Can We Learn from the 2003-2004 Iraq
Conflict?” Armed Forces & Society 31 (Winter 2005): 201-16. The Congressional Budget
Office study comes to the same conclusion. Congressional Budget Office, All-volunteer
8. Much of this section is drawn from Martin Binkin and Mark J. Eitelberg, Blacks and the
Military (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1982), chap. 2, which provides the reader
with a more in-depth treatment of the history.
9. Benjamin Quarles, The Negro in the American Revolution (Chapel Hill: University of North
Carolina Press, 1974), 14.
10. Ulysses Lee, “The Draft and the Negro,” Current History 55 (July 1968): 30.
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244 Armed Forces & Society 36(2)
11. Richard Stillman II, Integration of the Negro in the U.S. Armed Forces (New York: Praeger,
1968), 16.
12. Richard Dalfiume, Desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces: Fighting on Two Fronts, 1939-
1953 (St. Louis: University of Missouri Press), 1969, 23.
13. Binkin and Eitelberg, Blacks and the Military, 18.
14. Lee, “Draft and the Negro,” 71-74.
15. H. S. Milton, ed., The Utilization of Negro Manpower in the Army, ORO-R-11 (Chevy
Chase, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1955), 562.
16. The Power of the Pentagon (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1972), 34.
17. Charles C. Moskos, The American Enlisted Man: The Rank and File in Today’s Military
(New York: Russell Sage, 1970), 239-40.
18. Samuel A. Stouffer, Edward A. Suchman, Leland C. DeVinney, Shirley A. Star, and Robin
M. Williams, Jr., The American Soldier: Adjustment during Army Life (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1949), 594.
19. Milton, Utilization of Negro Manpower, 4-5.
20. “Services Abolish All-Negro Units,” New York Times, October 31, 1954.
21. Charles C. Moskos, “Has the Army Killed Jim Crow?” Negro History Bulletin 21 (Novem-
ber 1957): 29.
22. Daniel P. Moynihan, “Who Gets in the Army?” New Republic, November 5, 1966, 22.
23. Project One Hundred Thousand: Characteristics and Performance of “New Standards”
Men (Washington, DC: U.S. DoD, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Manpower and
Reserve Affairs, 1969).
24. Whitney M. Young, Jr., “When the Negroes in Vietnam Come Home,” Harper’s Magazine,
June 1967, 66.
25. The black enlistee rate is from the 1979 Gates Commission Report, 15. According to the
1970 U.S. Census of the Population (Table B-50), blacks composed 11.6 percent of the
youth population aged eighteen to twenty-four.
26. Thomas Gates, Report of the President’s Commission on an All-volunteer Armed Force
(Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1970).
27. Martin Anderson, “The Making of the All-volunteer Force,” in The All-volunteer Force:
Thirty Years of Service, ed. Barbara A. Bicksler, Curtis L. Gilroy, and John T. Warner
(Washington, DC: Brassey’s, 2004), 15.
28. Gus C. Lee and Geoffrey Y. Parker, Ending the Draft: The Story of the All Volunteer Force
(Alexandria, VA: Human Resources Research Organization, April 1977), 398.
29. Senate Testimony, S-8025, June 2, 1771, cited in ibid.
30. Gates Commission Report, 138-39.
31. Ibid., 15.
32. Les Aspin, “The All-volunteer Force: Assessing Fairness and Facing the Future,” Address
to the Association of the U.S. Army, April 26, 1991, 3.
33. “Progress in Ending the Draft and Achieving the All-volunteer Force,” DoD report to the
president and the chairman of the Armed Services Committees of the Senate and the House
of Representatives, August 1972, 26.
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Armor and Gilroy 245
34. Gates Commission Report, 15-16.
35. The scoring algorithm for interpreting test scores was flawed in that scores at the lower end
of the distribution were artificially inflated, resulting in the enlistment of over 400,000 low-
quality recruits between 1976 and 1980 who should not have been permitted to enlist.
36. There were data problems in 1976, so the rates are omitted for that year.
37. See explanation of race/ethnicity definitions in the Technical Appendix.
38. Here we include both nonprior service accessions (those new recruits who have never
served) and prior service accessions (those having served before).
39. Armed Services Qualification Test (AFQT) scores are divided into five aptitude percentile
categories: I = 93 to 99, II = 65 to 92, III = 31 to 64, IV = 10 to 30, and V = 1 to 9. Category
III is typically divided into subcategories IIIA (percentiles 50 to 64) and IIIB (percentiles
31 to 59). By law, non–high school graduates in category IV and all those in category V are
ineligible to enlist.
40. For validation of education and aptitude standards against actual job performance, see Bert
F. Green and Anne S. Mavor, eds., The Joint Service Job Performance and Enlistment
Standards Project (Washington, DC: National Academy of Science, 1994). Summaries of
empirical evidence can be found in Paul Hogan, Curtis Simon, and John Warner, “Sustain-
ing the Force in an Era of Transformation,” in The All-volunteer Force: Thirty Years of
Service, ed. Barbara A. Bicksler, Curtis L. Gilroy, and John T. Warner (Washington, DC:
Brassey’s, 2004), 62; and in Curtis Gilroy and W. S. Sellman, “Recruiting and Sustaining a
Quality Army: A Review of the Evidence,” in Future Soldiers and the Quality Imperative,
ed. Robert Phillips and Maxwell Thurman (Ft. Knox, KY: U.S. Army Recruiting Command,
41. The congressional limit on AFQT IV recruits is 20 percent. The services have been far
below that limit for over twenty years. The Army limit is 4 percent.
42. See Beth J. Asch, Paul Heaton, and Bogdon Savych, Recruiting Minorities: What Explains
Recent Trends in the Army and Navy? (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2009).
43. Survey respondents are asked the question, “How likely is it that you will be serving in the
military in the next few years?” Respondents can answer “definitely,” “probably,” “probably
not,” or “definitely not.” The first two categories indicate a positive propensity and are the
data shown in Figure 6. Through 1999, youth propensity was monitored through its Youth
Attitude Tracking Study, an annual survey of about 10,000 sixteen- to twenty-four-year-
olds. In 2001, DoD shifted to smaller scale Youth Polls, a sample of about 3,000 sixteen- to
twenty-one-year-olds that enabled DoD to track propensity on a more frequent basis.
44. Bruce Orvis, Gahart Martin, and Alvin Ludwig, Validity and Usefulness of Enlistment
Intention Information, Report R-3775-FMP (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1992).
45. See Gallup Poll, “Gallup’s Pulse of Democracy: The Iraq War,”
46. Ron Walters, “Why Should Blacks Fight in the Gulf?” Washington Post, December 27,
1990; Arch Puddington, “Black Leaders vs. Desert Storm,” Commentary, May 1991.
47. According to a Gallup Poll taken in October 2001, for example, 92 percent of whites
approved of the “current U.S. military operation in Afghanistan” (only 6 percent disap-
proved), while only 69 percent of blacks approved and 29 percent disapproved. Special
tabulations performed by Steve Crabtree of the Gallup Poll.
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246 Armed Forces & Society 36(2)
48. Jeffrey M. Jones, Blacks, Postgraduates among Groups Most Likely to Oppose Iraq Inva-
sion (Princeton, NJ: Gallup News Service, January 30, 2003).
49. See Gifford, “Combat Casualties,” 207; Charles C. Moskos and John S. Butler, All That We
Can Be (New York: Basic Books, 1996), 39-40.
50. Tom Philpott, “Behind Drop in Black Enlistees,” April 6, 2007,
David J. Armor is a professor of public policy at George Mason University, where he conducts
research and writes on several public policy topics, including education and military man-
power. He has served on the National Academy of Science Committee on Military Recruiting,
and he is former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Force
Curtis L. Gilroy is director of accession policy, Office of the Secretary of Defense and has
oversight for all active duty recruiting and officer commissioning programs nationwide. He was
formerly a senior scientist at the Army Research Institute and has written extensively on mili-
tary manpower issues.
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... The U.S. military has a history of environmental degradation and injustice that results from defense operations and land appropriation, including on the basis of race and colonial history (Alvarez, Theis, and Shtob 2021;Dillon 2015;Smith 2004, 2005;Kuletz 1998;LaDuke 1999;Seager 1993). These environmental injustices may be compounded by the overrepresentation of racial and ethnic minority military personnel in the lower ranks (Armor and Gilroy 2010;Mariscal 2005;Martinez and Huerta 2020;Williams 1998) that may place people of color in closer proximity to risk. By situating the military as an institutional example of the state's role in promoting or opposing EJ, we use CEJ to reconceptualize the environmental consequences of the U.S. military and the potential impacts of military development on service members and civilians who live and work near facilities (Bonds 2016). ...
... In recent years, the military has likely seen a change in racial and ethnic demographics on military bases and in surrounding communities (Lutz 2008). In part due to economic disenfranchisement, people of color are more likely to pursue careers in the armed forces, and racial/ethnic minority representation in the military has increased over the past two decades (Armor and Gilroy 2010;Barroso 2019;Lutz 2008;Mariscal 2005). Moreover, the U.S. military targeted Latinx youth for military service in the late 1990s and early 2000s (Mariscal 2005;Williams 1998). ...
... This is due, in part, to limited economic opportunities in communities of color arising from structural racial discrimination and resulting in targeted recruitment of Black and Latinx youth. In turn, this contributes to increased enlistment and suggests another formative mechanism for this type of environmental inequality (Armor and Gilroy 2010;Barroso 2019;Lutz 2008;Mariscal 2005;Williams 1998). ...
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The negative environmental, health, and social effects arising from U.S. military action in communities both domestically and abroad suggest that the military represents an understudied institutional source of environmental injustice. Moreover, scholars and activists have long argued that the state is an active or a tacit contributor to environmental inequality, thus providing an opportunity to link U.S. military activity with approaches to the state developed under critical environmental justice. We build on these literatures to ask: Does the presence of domestic military facilities significantly increase carcinogenic risks from air toxics? And do communities of color face additional military-associated carcinogenic risks? Multilevel analyses reveal that locales in closer proximity to a military facility and those exposed to greater military technological intensity, independent of each other, experience significantly higher carcinogenic risk from air toxics. We find that proximity to military facilities tends to intensify racial and ethnic environmental inequalities in exposure to airborne toxics, but in different ways for Latinx and Black populations. These results highlight the role of the state in perpetuating racial and environmental expendability as reflected in critical environmental justice and represent an important expansion of nationwide environmental justice studies on contributors to environmental inequality.
... There are at least three reasons why we might expect military veteran LEOs to be at greater risk for poor physical and psychological health outcomes during subsequent law enforcement service. First, the contemporary US All-Volunteer Force (AVF) draws disproportionately from rural, minority, and lower socioeconomic groups, as well as from military families (Armor and Gilroy 2010;Elder et al. 2010;Griffith and Bryan 2016;Hautzinger and Scandlyn 2014;Roth-Douquet and Schaffer 2006;Thompson 2011Thompson , 2016. Importantly, in contrast with military-civilian comparisons from the draft era, US service-members during the AVF era (since 1973) are also significantly more likely than their civilian counterparts to have experienced childhood adversity (Blosnich et al. 2014;Griffith and Bryan 2016), thereby exacerbating their risk of physical and psychological health problems. ...
... Second, the thriving US economy in the early 2000s complicated military recruitment efforts (Kapp 2012). During this time, both the US Army and Marine Corps increased their proportion of "low quality" (LQ) recruits, decreasing aptitude/education standards and issuing more waivers for violent/criminal misconduct history, substance use, and psychological disorders (Armor and Gilroy 2010;Griffith and Bryan 2016;Kaplan 2008;Kapp 2012). Among the Army's significant increase in waivers between 2003 and 2008, the largest proportion were moral conduct waivers (Griffith and Bryan 2016)-a group that was then significantly more likely to test positive for illicit substances and substance/alcohol abuse, and/or be discharged for behavioral misconduct (Gallaway et al. 2013). ...
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This study is the first attempt to systematically examine the impact of prior military service and childhood adversity on physical and psychological health outcomes during subsequent law enforcement employment. Given that at least one in five US law enforcement officers (LEOs) is a military veteran, and many law enforcement agencies provide preferential status for veterans in the hiring process, understanding the effects of prior military service on LEO physical and psychological well-being is important for supporting officer safety and wellness. Using nationally representative data, we examine the interrelationships between prior military service, combat deployments, childhood adversity, and three health outcomes during subsequent LE employment—PTSD, sleep problems, and suicidality. Contrary to prior research and our hypotheses, we found that prior military service and combat experience were not associated with an increased risk of PTSD, sleep problems, or suicidality. Furthermore, while greater exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) among non-veteran LEOs was linked with increased odds of PTSD, among veteran LEOs, greater ACE exposure was significantly linked with reduced odds of PTSD. We offer several possible explanations to account for these findings.
... The meritocratic environment of the military, combined with its provision of steady income, excellent benefits and job training, has been argued to reduce or eliminate racial and class disparities found in the civilian sector (Armor and Gilroy 2010;Kleykamp 2006;Lundquist 2004Lundquist , 2006Lundquist et al. 2014;Lutz 2008;Moskos and Butler 1996;Teachman and Tedrow 2008). Citing in-service training and education under the G.I. Bill as positive influencers, Sampson and Laub (1996) have similarly argued that service during the World War II reduced the socioeconomic disadvantage associated with a past criminal conviction. ...
... Because joining the military is a profound life decision not everyone makes, studies have sought to understand who joins the military. The consistent finding is that those from disadvantaged backgrounds are far more likely to enlist (Armor and Gilroy 2010;Elder et al. 2010;Kleykamp 2006;Lutz 2008;MacLean and Parsons 2010) so long as they are not incarcerated (Han 2018;Sutton 2000). Although black representation has fluctuated since the transition to an all-volunteer force (AVF) in 1973, blacks remain overrepresented, making up 19% of enlisted personnel in 2017. ...
People with criminal records in the United States continue to face limited employment opportunities due to social stigma and legal barriers. In contrast to the civilian sector, the military conducts a “whole person” evaluation to screen potential recruits and regularly hires people with felony and misdemeanor records. Moreover, evidence suggests that the military serves as a socially integrative institution and may facilitate desistance from future crimes. However, critics argue that the military exacerbates inequalities by subjecting marginalized communities to the unequal burden of service. Using the data obtained from the Army, we examine the relative risks of combat exposure and casualties between enlisted soldiers with and without criminal records who joined between 2002 and 2009. The results suggest that soldiers with felony and misdemeanor records are more likely to be assigned to combat occupations than those without criminal records. We also find that among soldiers assigned to positions with low combat exposure, ex‐offenders face a higher risk of death compared to those without criminal records. Findings do not dispute the idea that the military facilitates desistance from future crimes and provides second chances to people with criminal records, but reaffirm the fact that military service costs lives and limbs.
... To meet shortfalls, several methods have been used, such as "stop-loss", where personnel had to remain in military service beyond their obligations, increased bonus money for enlisting or re-enlisting, and lowering entry standards. Armor and Gilroy (2010) reported that beginning in 2005 there was a slight increase in Category IV recruits (derived from the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, ASVAB 1 ), and an even larger increase in Category IIIB recruits in the Army. The increases in both categories are most probably explained by the need for military personnel during the Iraq War. ...
Povzetek Po drugi svetovni vojni so se oborožene sile ZDA popolnjevale z vpoklicem ali obveznim služenjem vojaškega roka za fante. Ta praksa se je končala leta 1973 z uvedbo prostovoljnega popolnjevanja (All-Volunteer Force – AVF). Uvedba AVF pa je prinesla več novih izzivov, vključno z ustreznim pridobivanjem in zadrževanjem vojaškega kadra. Sčasoma je bilo treba sprejeti več prosilcev, saj se je pridobivanje kadra zmanjšalo. Bilo je manj zainteresiranih in ustreznih prosilcev, od teh pa še manj tistih, ki so ustrezali standardom. Ob uvedbi sprememb v nacionalni obrambni politiki in zaradi sodelovanja ZDA v nedavnih bojnih operacijah večjega obsega je prišlo do pomanjkanja pripravljenosti na področju pridobivanja in zadrževanja kadra. Nezadovoljiva pripravljenost se je najbolj kazala v rezervni sestavi, na kar se v tem članku tudi osredotočamo. S pomočjo opisa teh dogodkov prikazujemo medsebojno povezanost med pridobivanjem in zadrževanjem kadra ter pripravljenostjo, pri čemer kažemo na potrebo po bolj preudarnem razmisleku o tem, kako se vsak izmed njih izvaja, še zlasti v okviru AVF. Teorija identitete ponuja načine za razumevanje in razvijanje takih vrst vojaškega kadra, ki je potreben za lažje pridobivanje, zadrževanje in pripravo kadra. Ključne besede: vpoklic, obvezno služenje vojaškega roka, prostovoljno popolnjevanje, All-Volunteer Force – AVF, pridobivanje kadra, zadrževanje kadra, pripravljenost. Abstract After World War II “the draft”, or compulsory military service of young men, staffed U.S. forces. This practice ended in 1973 with the introduction of the All-Volunteer Force (AVF). However, staffing the AVF introduced several new challenges, including the adequate recruitment and retention of military personnel. Over time, more applicants had to be taken, as recruitment fell short. There were fewer interested and eligible applicants, and of these, even fewer who met the standards. A lack of readiness relating to both recruitment and retention became apparent as changes occurred in the national defense policy and the U.S.’s participation in recent large-scale combat operations. Inadequacies in readiness were most evident among the reserve forces – the focus of this paper. Through the description of these events, the inter-relationships between recruitment, retention, and readiness are demonstrated, pointing to the need for more deliberate thought with regard to how each is implemented, especially in the context of the AVF. Identity theory offers ways to understand and to develop the kinds of military personnel needed to better recruit, retain, and ready personnel. KEY WORDS draft, compulsory military service, all-volunteer force, recruitment, retention, readiness
... Recruitment of soldiers from socially marginalized groups, including women, racial and ethnic minorities, and sexual and gender minorities, has increasingly become a priority for the U.S. military in an effort to maintain a socially representative force (Armor & Gilroy, 2010;Hajjar, 2010;Kamarck, 2015). Diversity in the armed forces provides opportunities for representation of various perspectives, which is thought to increase the ability to interact successfully with different groups of people at home and abroad (Hajjar, 2010). ...
Recruitment of soldiers from diverse backgrounds has increasingly become a priority for the U.S. military. Although there has been success in recruiting a more diverse and representative military workforce, perceptions of acceptance of minority military personnel remains underexplored. The present study sought to measure perceptions of acceptance among active-duty military personnel with diverse backgrounds by comparing perceived levels of acceptance both in and outside minority group membership among racial and ethnic, gender, and sexual minority-identifying participants. Results suggest members of minority groups tended to perceive lower acceptance of both their minority group and other minority groups compared with their perceptions of acceptance of majority groups. In particular, White, heterosexual, cisgender males tended to perceive minority groups as more accepted than those in minority groups perceived themselves. These results suggest the implementation of programs designed to improve workplace climate and awareness of diversity and equity issues may be beneficial.
This commentary examines the influence of the Afghanistan war on the content of Armed Forces & Society. My 20-year tenure as editor of Armed Forces & Society overlaps completely with the war. Using the lenses of the postmodern or post-Cold War military, I reflect on how the articles of this journal were influenced by the war. The postmodern military relies more heavily on volunteers, is more likely to engage in unconventional missions, and more likely to use multinational forces. I found an increase in articles devoted to reserve forces and contractors. In addition, many articles investigated the unique management challenges of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The multiple deployments and brutal nature of the war led to a large increase in health/mental health articles and also contributed to changes in the scope of the military family and veterans’ literature. The limited civil–military relations literature was affected indirectly.
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The modern Russian regime is one of the more prominent states espousing an explicitly illiberal ideological worldview domestically and abroad. Although regime illiberalism is many-sided, including authoritarian governance characteristics, international diffusion practices, and domestic political management, observers have often assumed that illiberalism is at its core an instrumental or cynical approach employed by the Russian leadership to bolster regime security and promote its foreign policy. This article suggests rather that observed illiberalism has additional roots in the dynamics of authoritarian domestic politics and society, rather than being characterized as simply a cynical top-down strategy of the Kremlin. Rather, regime illiberalism is congruent with many domestic drivers of political and societal influence. While decision-making elites certainly play up illiberalism instrumentally for purposes of regime maintenance and positional international influence, large institutional constituencies for substantive illiberalism also exist independent of regime goals. After suggesting two institutional formats-the Russian parliament and national broadcast media-in which observed illiberalism can best understood as an entrepreneurial behavior by lower-tier elite signaling loyalty and usefulness to the regime center, three further institutional sources are identified to be constituted by inherently illiberal organizational and symbolic forms that would promote illiberalism regardless of the regime's strategic preferences: the Russian Orthodox Church, the Russian Armed Forces, and the symbolic center of the patronal presidency.
The present study examined career intentions in two samples—home-based or garrison ( N = 12,583 soldiers in 180 companies) and deployed and recently returned soldiers ( N = 4,551 in 50 companies). Proportionally, fewer deployed soldiers than home-based garrison soldiers intended to stay in reserve military service. Among deployed soldiers, those who reported having experienced combat trauma, having had wounded or killed someone, and having had a friend killed in combat were less likely to plan to continue military service; reservists more likely to continue military service had returned to the same civilian job after deployment. Among deployed and garrison soldiers, fewer financial difficulties were associated with higher likelihood of continuing reserve military service. Examples from the social constructionist perspective of reserve military service are used to elaborate on mechanisms in these associations.
This article reviews civil-military relations theory applied to mature democratic states. It assumes that the important theoretical problem is how to maintain a military that sustains and protects democratic values, showing how the classic and still influential theories of Huntington and Janowitz were rooted, respectively, in liberal and civic republican theories of democracy and, as a result, neither adequately solved this problem. The article then uses current research to pose new questions about the relations between military and political elites, the relations of civilians to the military and the state, and the multinational use of force. Based on the review, it concludes that a new theory of civil-military relations - one that accounts for the circumstances mature democracies presently face and tells how militaries can sustain as they protect democratic values - cannot be derived from either liberal or civic republican models of democracy, as Huntington and Janowitz tried to do, but might be derived from federalist models.
This article reviews civil-military relations theory applied to mature democratic states. It assumes that the important theoretical problem is how to maintain a military that sustains and protects democratic values, showing how the classic and still influential theories of Huntington and Janowitz were rooted, respectively, in liberal and civic republican theories of democracy and, as a result, neither adequately solved this problem. The article then uses current research to pose new questions about the relations between military and political elites, the relations of civilians to the military and the state, and the multinational use of force. Based on the review, it concludes that a new theory of civil-military relations-one that accounts for the circumstances mature democracies presently face and tells how militaries can sustain as they protect democratic values cannot be derived from either liberal or civic republican models of democracy, as Huntington and Janowitz tried to do, but might be derived from federalist models.
This study addresses concerns about the racial equity of military service in the United States by analyzing data on casualties from the 2003–2004 Iraq conflict. It proposes that the racial composition of combat casualties reflects three factors: the social processes that sort volunteers into various military units and occupational specialties; the mix of units and specialties that participate in military operations; and the battlefield conditions they encounter. The data reveal little evidence of disproportionate casualties among African Americans, but Hispanics are overrepresented compared to their participation in the military as a whole, and in Army and Marine Corps combat specialties. In general, casualties among minorities tend to be highest when combat conditions involve high-intensity, aggressive assault tactics by US ground combat forces. This is particularly true for Hispanics, partly due to their high participation rates in combat specialties and in the Marine Corps.
With the termination of the Selective Service System in 1973, the armed forces will be reduced in size, but for the first time the United States will have an expanded military operating as a "force in being" rather than a cadre for mobilization. Several fundamental public policy questions are involved: will the armed forces be able to recruit the necessary number and quality personnel; will this force be relatively representative of the larger society. With present reduction in force levels, recruitment is made more difficult because of lack of career stability and declining opportunities. The end of the draft has already resulted in shortages of skilled and technical personnel as well as declining enrollment in Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) and National Guard and reserve units. Together with age restrictions and educational guide lines, this suggests that progress toward numerical quotas is in part a compromise in quality. A review of the characteristics of the manpower pool indicates that it is weighted toward the low-income and modest social status group. The social demography of the armed forces is not predetermined, but it will play an important role in the internal viability of the armed forces in civil-military relations in the post-Vietnam period.