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Social Representation in the U.S. Military

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Do U.S. military personnel adequately represent all segments of society Concerns about the social composition of the military have frequently been raised in the Congress. As early as 1974, in the first full year of the All-Volunteer Force, the Senate Armed Services Committee reflected the general Congressional interest in who serves in the military by directing the Defense Department to submit annual reports on population representation among active-duty enlisted personnel. The social composition of the military has not yet become a major budgetary issue, but the links frequently made between representation and either a draft or national service create the prospect that it may arise in future budget deliberations. This paper provides a comprehensive look at the social representation of U.S. enlisted forces, within the limits of available data. Along with demographic measures-sex, race, and geographic distribution, for example-that form the basis of the annual Defense Department reports, it also examines measures of socioeconomic status such as family incomes. The analysis considers recruits to the reserve components as well as active-duty recruits. The paper also explores the forces shaping the social composition of the career forces. Finally, it shows the likely composition of the Armys recruits if a small-scale draft were to be instituted. The analysis of socioeconomics in this study is not definitive. Although it relies on the best data currently available, its use of homearea measures of socioeconomic status based on recruits home ZIP codes limits the strength of the conclusions that can be drawn. While the directions of the differences between recruits and the general youth population that are found are probably correct, the magnitudes may understate the differences that would be found if the characteristics of recruits families were known.

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  • Sociology and Law
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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