Mark Tapscott mails to direct your attention to evidence showing that military recruitment doesn't favor the rich -- it is favored by them.
Dr. Tim Kane, an economist who works in The Heritage Foundation's Center for Data Analysis, wondered the same thing recently, so he asked the Defense Department for all the demographic data he could get on recruits.A quintile is twenty percent of the population. Thus, if 19% of the military comes from the poorest quintile, that quintile is underrepresented; if 22% comes from another quintile, that one is somewhat overrepresented.
What Kane got in response from DOD was an avalanche of demographic data about the 1999 and 2003 recruits. After conducting extensive statistical analyses on the data, Kane reached some conclusions that will surprise anybody who believes the conventional wisdom about who becomes cannon fodder.
Check out the graphic above. Note the proportions of recruits from each of the five demographic quintiles, organized according to per capita income by zip code. The percentage of recruits from the poorest quintile is actually lower in 1999 and 2003 than the percentage for the richest quintile.
In fact, the percentage difference between the richest and poorest quintiles increases between 1999 and 2003! And the highest percentage is actually in the second richest quintile of recruits, followed by the richest quintile.
Of the five quintiles, only the poorest is underrepresented in the military -- all the others are at or above 20%. That's very interesting. It suggests a military that is precisely the opposite of the one portrayed in the media.
Now, here's something else that's interesting. Compare those statistics above with these, which break down recruiting by geographic region of the United States. The South is far and away the leader in recruitment, although it is the poorest region of the United States. The wealthiest region, the Northeast, trails in recruitment.
That suggests that the media picture is even less accurate. The military maintains these levels of representation in the richest and second-richest quintiles, while drawing 40% of the force from the poorest region in the country and only fifteen percent from the richest region.
That suggests that military recruitment is heavily disproportionate among the upper and upper-middle class everywhere but the Northeast, and probably certain parts of California. The top two quintiles of income are concentrated in these richer parts of the country, which are unlikely to produce recruits. Thus, recruitment among the richer Americans outside of those regions must be extremely high indeed.
Something to think about. It also explains why the USMC can increase two-hundred fold their training classes for Arabic, one of the world's most difficult languages. The wealthiest Americans, excepting those in certain enclaves, are finding that their well-educated children are choosing to serve.
Good on them.
UPDATE: The Mudville Gazette has a long post on Army recruiting, which offers a lot of data specific to the Army. He is hunting a different claim than the one above, though: he's curious about the problem of how many young Americans are actually fit to join the military.