Military Service Demographics

Danielle Allen takes to the editorial pages of WaPo to decry the regional disparity of military service in a piece titled “Red-State Army?”

Veterans Day in Maysville, Ky. Photo Credit: By Terry Prather -- Associated Press

Veterans Day in Maysville, Ky. Photo Credit: By Terry Prather -- Associated Press

Whereas in 1969 13 percent of Americans were veterans, in 2007 only 8 percent of us were.

Even more important than these general demographic shifts is the change wrought by the end of the draft in 1973. Until then, military service was distributed pretty evenly across regions. But that is no longer true. The residential patterns for current veterans and the patterns of state-level contributions of new recruits to the all-volunteer military have a distinct geographic tilt. And tellingly, the map of military service since 1973 aligns closely with electoral maps distinguishing red from blue states.

In 1969, the 10 states with the highest percentage of veterans were, in order: Wyoming, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, California, Oregon, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio, Connecticut and Illinois. In 2007, the 10 states with the highest percentage of post-Vietnam-era veterans were, in order: Alaska, Virginia, Hawaii, Washington, Wyoming, Maine, South Carolina, Montana, Maryland and Georgia.

She gives the usual conjecture as to why the disparity exists and argues that mandatory national service is absolutely essential to save us from our dividedness.

Except that as Streiff, posting at RedState (ironically enough), points out, her premise is wrong. Indeed, it’s rather silly. Virginia, Hawaii, Washington, Maine, and Maryland all voted for Barack Obama! All of those but Virginia voted for John Kerry and Al Gore!

So, maybe we don’t need to fire up the draft just yet.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    The veterans end up in places like VA, HI, WA, or CA not because they’re originally from those places, but because they like the job opportunities or climate of those places where they’ve been stationed during their careers and decided to put down roots in those military communities after retirement or separation. Like anyone else, veterans go where the jobs are, and where employers want people with their unique skills.

  2. just me says:

    This is a stupid reason for a draft.

    I think about the only reason for a draft is if/when there is a war along the lines of WWII where a lot of troops are needed in a lot of places to wage war, and I am not convinced we are going to see another war like that.

    I would rather keep the military all volunteer, and look at realistic ways to increase recruitment and retention of officers and enlisted in critical areas than to require everyone to join. I think recruitment and retention of people who want to be there or at least had some say in being there makes for a better military than having a bunch of service members who would rather be somewhere else.

    And even if the majority of recruits and service members come from red states, it doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to bring back the draft.

  3. Tracy says:

    Have to agree with DC Loser on this one. I know plenty of military people who purchase a house while they’re still in simply because they like an area. They try to be stationed in that area every few moves, and eventually settle there. Others go where the jobs are available to suit their skills, like my family and others I know. We’d love to go back to our home state, but there just aren’t jobs there.