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Rich Man’s War, Poor Man’s Fight? Socioeconomic Representativeness in the Modern Military

  • Asoni, Andrea

    ()

    (Charles River Associates)

  • Sanandaji, Tino

    ()

    (Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN))

Historically, the American armed forces were disproportionally drawn from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. A transition toward a smaller and more selective military has changed this tendency. Since the armed forces do not gather data on recruits’ family income, previous studies relied on geographic data to proxy for economic background. We improve on previous literature using individual-level data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 and study population representativeness in the years 1997–2011. We find that recruits score higher than the civilian population on cognitive skill tests, and come from households with above average median parental income and wealth. Moreover, both the lowest and highest parental income categories are under-represented. Higher skill test scores increase enlistment rates from lower- and middle-income families while decreasing them for high income families. The over-representation of minorities in the military has declined in recent decades. Non-Hispanic White casualties are now over-represented in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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

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Length: 41 pages
Date of creation: 27 May 2013
Date of revision: 16 Dec 2014
Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:0965
Contact details of provider: Postal: Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden
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  1. 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.
  2. Joshua D. Angrist, 1998. "Estimating the Labor Market Impact of Voluntary Military Service Using Social Security Data on Military Applicants," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(2), pages 249-288, March.
  3. John Bound & Sarah Turner, 2002. "Going to War and Going to College: Did World War II and the G.I. Bill Increase Educational Attainment for Returning Veterans?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 784-815, October.
  4. 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.
  5. repec:mpr:mprres:7642 is not listed on IDEAS
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