We test two sets of alternative hypotheses about the demographic composition of the U.S. armed forces. We analyse individual-level data of two national representative samples covering the period 1979–2008. We find that, in contrast to the accepted wisdom, the U.S. military no longer primarily recruits individuals from the most disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. Technological, tactical, operational and doctrinal changes have led to a change in the demand for personnel. As a result, on different metrics such as family income and family wealth as well as cognitive abilities, military personnel are on average like the average American citizen or slightly better.
Asoni, A., Gilli, A., Gilli, M., & Sanandaji, T. (2022). A mercenary army of the poor? Technological change and the demographic composition of the post-9/11 U.S. military. Journal of Strategic Studies, 45(4), 568–614. https://doi.org/10.1080/01402390.2019.1692660
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