Thursday, October 07, 2010

Where Soldiers Come From: Setting the Record Straight

On Tuesday, Richard Florida with the Atlantic magazine posted an article commenting on a speech Secretary of Defense Gates gave at Duke last week. Florida wrote
"The social divisions of class and inequality have always run through the military. Fighting forces have long been drawn disproportionately from lower-income, lower-skilled, and more economically disadvantaged populations."
I believe this is absolutely wrong! An article from the Heritage Foundation published in 2008 says:
"Based on an understanding of the limitations of any objective definition of quality, this report compares military volunteers to the civilian population on four demographic characteristics: household income, education level, racial and ethnic background, and regional origin. This report finds that:

"1. U.S. military service disproportionately attracts enlisted personnel and officers who do not come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Previous Heritage Foundation research demonstrated that the quality of enlisted troops has increased since the start of the Iraq war. This report demonstrates that the same is true of the officer corps.

"2. Members of the all-volunteer military are significantly more likely to come from high-income neighborhoods than from low-income neighborhoods . . . .

" 3. American soldiers are more educated than their peers . . . .

" 4. Contrary to conventional wisdom, minorities are not overrepresented in military service . . . .

"The facts do not support the belief that many American soldiers volunteer because society offers them few other opportunities. The average enlisted person or officer could have had lucrative career opportunities in the private sector. Those who argue that American soldiers risk their lives because they have no other opportunities belittle the personal sacrifices of those who serve out of love for their country."
See the linked article for the parts that were omitted (the . . .'s) in the interest of brevity. There is plenty of data and a number of charts to back up the above conclusions. I'm wondering where Florida came up with his facts from.

I left a comment last night asking if the author could resolve the apparent contradiction between his statement and the linked study, but the comment isn't posted yet. I believe it is still awaiting moderator approval, so perhaps the Atlantic is preparing an answer for me. At any rate, I wanted to post a response to these commonly held opinions that don't seem to agree with the facts.

1 comment:

grmapege said...

I agree with your opinion, Preston. I have no data, but I seems to me that many "disadvantaged" minorities are not in the military because they do not qualify.