Myth: The military exploits low-income people by trying to get them to enlist

Instance of the myth: At a community forum of Columbia's ROTC Task Force, one person who got up to comment objected to ROTC because, "The military recruits among low-income areas specifically". 

Facts: People in the military tend to be "middle class", as can be seen in Figure 1 in a study released in 2010 by the National Priorities Project.  The income graph shows fewer people from higher and lower income groups, with the bulk in the middle.  Similar information is in a 2008 Heritage Foundation report, which discusses the relationship to the ROTC issue.

Part of the reason for the low numbers of people from low income levels is the military's selection criteria.  An article in ArmyTimes relates that "only 4.7 million of the 31.2 million 17- to 24-year-olds in a 2007 survey are eligible to enlist" and that "According to the Pentagon, the ineligible population breaks down this way":

Some of these issues could account for the under-representation in the military of people from low-income areas.  If indeed it is true that the military is trying harder to sign people up in low-income areas, this affirmative action is not keeping up with the challenges. 

People from high-income areas are also under-represented in the military.  One reason for this is that many top colleges have effectively barred ROTC.

It is not clear why the difficulty in getting qualified recruits from low-income areas should be used as an argument against having ROTC at colleges that attract students from high-income areas.

 

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