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Rich Man’s War, Poor Man’s Fight? Socio-economic Representativeness in the Modern Military

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  • Asoni, Andrea

    ()
    (Charles River Associates)

  • Sanandaji, Tino

    ()
    (Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN))

Abstract

Having a military that is representative of the population is a stated social goal by policy makers. Since the armed forces do not gather data on the family income of recruits, studies on the socioeconomic background have relied on potentially biased geographic data, reaching conflicting conclusions. We use the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 to study population representativeness in the years 1997–2011 based on individual level data. In contrast to previous periods, and contrary to popular perception, those who joined the military had higher than median family income and wealth. The lowest and highest parental income categories are both underrepresented in the military. Those who joined were more likely to pursue higher education and had higher self-reported life satisfaction. Recruits had 0.2 standard deviation higher cognitive tests scores than the civilian population. Higher cognitive test scores strongly increases the probability of joining for those from lower and middle income families while interestingly lowering the probability of joining for those from high-income homes. The over-representation of minorities in the military has declined in recent decades. In sharp contrast to the Vietnam War, Non-Hispanic Whites are significantly overrepresented as casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Research Institute of Industrial Economics in its series Working Paper Series with number 965.

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Length: 23 pages
Date of creation: 27 May 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:0965

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Keywords: Military service; Occupational choice; Human capital;

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  1. John Bound & Sarah E. Turner, 1999. "Going to War and Going to College: Did World War II and the G.I. Bill Increase Educational Attainment for Returning Veterans?," NBER Working Papers 7452, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Joshua D. Angrist, 1995. "Estimating the Labor Market Impact of Voluntary Military Service Using Social Security Data on Military Applicants," NBER Working Papers 5192, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. David R. Mann, 2012. "Why We Fight: Understanding Military Participation Over the Life Cycle," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 7642, Mathematica Policy Research.
  4. David R. Mann, 2012. "Why We Fight: Understanding Military Participation over the Life Cycle," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(4), pages 279 - 315.
  5. Rohlfs Chris, 2012. "The Economic Cost of Conscription and an Upper Bound on the Value of a Statistical Life: Hedonic Estimates from Two Margins of Response to the Vietnam Draft," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, De Gruyter, vol. 3(3), pages 1-37, August.
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