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

Author

Listed:
  • Asoni, Andrea

    () (Charles River Associates)

  • Sanandaji, Tino

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

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Asoni, Andrea & Sanandaji, Tino, 2013. "Rich Man’s War, Poor Man’s Fight? Socioeconomic Representativeness in the Modern Military," Working Paper Series 965, Research Institute of Industrial Economics, revised 16 Dec 2014.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:0965
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    2. repec:mpr:mprres:7642 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    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.
    6. 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, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(03), pages 1-37, August.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Military service; Occupational choice; Human capital;

    JEL classification:

    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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