Army Recruits Fewer High School Grads

Army Recruiting Uncle Sam Poster After years of being stretched thin by war, the Army is enlisting fewer “high quality” recruits.

The percent of Army recruits with a high school diploma dropped last year, continuing a trend that has worsened since the start of the Iraq war, according to a report released Tuesday.

National Priorities Project, a research group that analyzes federal data, found that nearly 71 percent of Army recruits graduated from high school in the 2007 budget year. It based its findings on data it obtained from the Defense Department through a Freedom of Information Act request.

All troops must have a high school diploma or an equivalent degree. The military prefers that they have a high school diploma because its studies have shown they are more likely to finish an enlistment term. Still, the Army has paid for some recruits to take GED preparation classes and take the test. The Army’s goal is 90 percent high school graduates, which it hasn’t met since 2004. Each year since, the number of recruits with at least a high school diploma has steadily declined.

[…]

The National Priorities Project said the percent of “high-quality” recruits — those with a high school diploma who scored in the top half on the military’s qualification test — declined from budget years 2004 to 2007. In that period, the number of high-quality recruits fell from about 61 percent to nearly 45 percent, the group said.

It also found that in the 2007 budget year, upper middle- and high-income neighborhoods were underrepresented by an even larger margin than three years earlier.

None of this is surprising, of course. It’s hard to get people to volunteer for the Army during long, unpopular wars. And, obviously, it’s even more difficult to attract those with better alternative choices.

This is map somewhat interesting, though:

Army Recruiting Percentage Map

While the fact that they used the same color palette for positive and negative growth makes it stand out much less, we see that recruiting has actually increased in much of the southeast and southwest. Presumably, that reflects a combination of cultural and economic factors. Still, while most of the media attention focuses on black-white and rich-poor disparities, the major difference would seem to be urban-rural.

UPDATE: SFC Thomas Nichols offers a much more positive assessment of the current recruiting picture, noting that both the Active Army and Army National Guard are meeting or exceeding targets.

FILED UNDER: General, Military Affairs, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tlaloc says:

    I think we’d really need a finer break down to say it is urban-rural that is the dominant factor.

    And what the hell is up with the Dakotas? I mean they really stick out as being far more negative than the surrounding states. Did we declare war on the Dakotas and nobody told me?

    *bonus points for those who get the Sam and Max reference*

  2. James Joyner says:

    And what the hell is up with the Dakotas?

    Maybe just a statistical anomaly? There are what, 12 people living there? It doesn’t take much to move 20 percent from a small number!

  3. Tlaloc says:

    good point.

    Do they have the information broken down by county or anything? I’d love to play with these numbers and see what pops out.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Do they have the information broken down by county or anything? I’d love to play with these numbers and see what pops out.

    Someone does, I’m sure. Maybe Army Public Affairs?

    DOD Media Relations: +1 (703) 697-5131
    ARMY Public Affairs 703-692-2000 or 703-693-4723

  5. DC Loser says:

    I think the farm economies in the plains have been on a rebound in recent years with the demand for export grains and corn for ethanol. Guess that’s keeping the boys (and girls) on the farm for the time being.

  6. Tlaloc says:

    I think the farm economies in the plains have been on a rebound in recent years with the demand for export grains and corn for ethanol. Guess that’s keeping the boys (and girls) on the farm for the time being.

    Wouldn’t that affect Wyoming too?

  7. Proud Dad says:

    My son was home schooled. Joined the Army last fall. He got a 1450 on his SAT. Graduated top of his class at boot camp.

    There are many Home schooler joining the Army. Most are way brighter than the average public high school graduate.

    Another hack attack against the USA/Army.

    If the reporter wasn’t lazy or just plain dumb,she would have found out how many home schoolers are joining the Army. Home Schooling has increase to a huge pool of students. They are also much more likely to decide to serve their country

    But then maybe she just wanted to twist the fact, like see was taught in a Liberal Arts program.