I read TBogg’s post earlier today about the army’s precipitous drop in recruitment of African Americans (down 1/3 over the past five years), but I did not know that the percentage of female recuits has also plummeted (down 13% during the same time period) and that the army has described the reasons behind these shortfalls in a series of unpublicized studies completed over the past year or so.
“More African-Americans identify having to fight for a cause they don’t support as a barrier to military service,” concluded an August 2004 study for the Army. It also said attitudes toward the Army among all groups of American youth have grown more negative in recent years.
“In the past, barriers were about inconvenience or preference for another life choice,” the study said. “Now they have switched to something quite different: fear of death or injury.”
“Risks of military service, and particularly the Army, are perceived to far outweigh the rewards for the vast majority of youth,” said the August 2004 study by GfK Custom Research Inc.
“Reasons for not considering military service are increasingly based on objections to the Iraq situation and aversion to the military,” concluded a study by market research firm Millward Brown based on a survey last spring.
Although female soldiers are barred by law from assignments in direct land combat, they nonetheless have found themselves under attack by insurgents in Iraq, and 33 have died, including 21 in hostile action. That is far more than died in either the Vietnam War or the 1991 Gulf War.
“Over time, females are seeing less benefits to joining the Army and more barriers, particularly combat-related reasons,” the Millward Brown study found.
Statistically, the fear factor is about twice as strong among potential recruits as a whole than it was in 2000, the GfK study found last August. The fear is evident in a high proportion of survey respondents who said their main reasons for not joining the military included: “I might be killed in combat,” “I don’t want to kill people,” and “I might be captured or tortured.”
Blacks make up about 23 percent of today’s active-duty Army, but the share of blacks in the recruit classes of recent years dropped. From 22.7 percent at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the share slid to 19.9 percent in 2002; 16.4 percent in 2003 and 15.9 percent last year, according to figures provided by Army Recruiting Command spokesman Douglas Smith.
The slide has continued, dropping to 13.9 percent as of Feb. 9.
A separate study, done shortly after President Bush declared major combat operations in Iraq had ended in May 2003, concluded, “Combat is the number one reason why” blacks don’t want to join the Army.