Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login

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


Author Info

  • Asoni, Andrea

    (Charles River Associates)

  • Sanandaji, Tino

    (Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN))


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.

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Bibliographic Info

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

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

Contact details of provider:
Postal: Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden
Phone: +46 8 665 4500
Fax: +46 8 665 4599
Web page:
More information through EDIRC

Related research

Keywords: Military service; Occupational choice; Human capital;

Find related papers by JEL classification:

This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
as in new window
  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.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)



This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.


Access and download statistics


When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:0965. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Elisabeth Gustafsson).

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.