Demographics of the United States Armed Forces

Since the subject of the individual makeup of American servicemen came up in a comment response on a different post, I thought it appropriate to point out some interesting facts regarding the long promulgated and completely inaccurate assumptions that only lower income households produce our fighting men and women, and that they are generally uneducated young people.  The falsehoods are often offered as evidence to vilify the military for “preying” on the less fortunate, disadvantaged youth that have no other options in life.

As the Center for Data Analysis demonstrates, the opposite is in fact true:

-The top three quintiles (that is, 20% brackets, or 60% of the total population) in terms of household income disproportionately produced enlisted recruits* between 2006 and 2007 (71% in both years).  Conversely, the bottom two quintiles (40% of the total population) produced only 28.9% and 29% of the enlisted recruits in those years.

-During this same span, enlisted recruits originating form households of less than $40,000 annual income were underrepresented proportionally to their population, whereas those from households earning above this figure were overrepresented (to the tune of 75.5% of the total enlisted force).

-Only 1.3% of 2006 and 1.4% of 2007 enlisted recruits possessed no high school diploma.  The United States population of 18-24 year olds boasts a truly impressive rate of 20.8% lacking these accomplishments.

It seems that our servicemen and women choose to enlist because of different reasons than some politicians, pundits, and activists would lead us to believe.


Of additional interest, the following statistics were also available regarding the states which produce our servicemen and women.

States overrepresented in 2007 proportionate to the 18-24 year old population (ratio):

Montana (1.67)

Nevada (1.50)

Oregon (1.39)

Maine (1.35)

Arkansas (1.32)

Oklahoma (1.32)

Alabama (1.31)

Florida (1.31)

Texas (1.31)

Idaho (1.28)

Missouri (1.26)

Georgia (1.22)

West Virginia (1.20)

South Carolina (1.19)

Tennessee (1.19)

Alaska (1.17)

Virginia (1.15)

Kansas (1.14)

Arizona (1.13)

North Carolina (1.13)

New Hampshire (1.10)

Wyoming (1.10)

Hawaii (1.08)

Washington (1.08)

Colorado (1.07)

Ohio (1.06)

Michigan (1.03)

Kentucky (1.02)

New Mexico (1.00)


States and districts underrepresented in 2007 proportionate to the 18-24 year old population (ratio):

Indiana (0.97)

Wisconsin (0.97)

Iowa (0.95)

Nebraska (0.93)

South Dakota (0.90)

Louisiana (0.88)

Maryland (0.88)

Pennsylvania (0.88)

Illinois (0.87)

Mississippi (0.85)

California (0.80)

Vermont (0.75)

Minnesota (0.74)

Delaware (0.73)

New York (0.68)

Connecticut (0.63)

New Jersey (0.62)

Massachusetts (0.60)

Rhode Island (0.58)

Utah (0.56)

North Dakota (0.53)

District of Columbia (0.25)


*For the purposes of this study, “enlisted recruits” are defined as non-prior service active duty accessions for the given timeframes.


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  1. #1 by Chuck Temm on August 5, 2011 - 6:09 AM

    For those of us who served of course, the economic/demographic data is not new. The stereotypes were usually recycled by people trying to score political points for some reason.

    The data on personnel representation though was new to me and parts VERY surprising. Good stuff!

    • #2 by The Observer on August 5, 2011 - 12:59 PM

      Thanks much. This is just a broad highlight of the overall study, however. If you want to know more you can download the PDF from the link embedded in the post to get the original in its entirety.

  2. #3 by Robert Pillow on August 10, 2011 - 1:22 PM

    The most intelligent and talented people I ever have know have worn this country’s uniform, The military is one of the few organisations that insist that all of its members continue to educate themselves, A General officer at a minimum has a second or 3rd degree, and Senior NonComs have to work twice as hard to get an education and they all do. And I’ve had plenty of buddies who left the “big house” to serve their country rather than live off of “mommy and daddys” dime so I think those are statements made by the truly ignorant

  3. #4 by Larry Track on August 23, 2011 - 5:51 PM

    Bravo Zulu to Montana!

  4. #5 by Antonio on August 28, 2011 - 9:42 AM

    Dare I suggest it’s because people who work hard and become successful are more conservative, so their children are more likely to want to serve? That being said, my brother and I came from a very poor family, but once I landed a good job that took care of my family (through fifty hour work weeks), I ended up going back in to the Guard (from Texas!). Maybe I proved my theory, I don’t know.

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