Socioeconomic Status of Enlisted Accessions and Civilians
Socioeconomic Index Scores

Chapter 7

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Socioeconomic index scores reflecting the education, income, and prestige associated with individual occupations were computed from responses to DoD and CPS surveys.  We used a common scale, the TSEI, [1] to indicate occupation prestige for both fathers and mothers. 

The TSEI scores ranged from 10 to 81 for DoD fathers and from 7 to 81 for CPS fathers.  Figure 7.1 shows the distribution of TSEI scores for active duty, Reserve Component, and CPS fathers.  In addition, the figure shows the Active and Reserve Component representation ratios for each of the TSEI categories.  For any range of TSEI scores, this number is the ratio of the percentage of DoD fathers (either active duty or Reserve Component) in the range to the percentage of CPS fathers in the range.  A representation ratio of greater than 1.0 for any TSEI category indicates a greater proportion of DoD parents in the category, compared to CPS parents, while a ratio of less than 1.0 indicates fewer DoD parents in the category, compared to CPS parents.  The magnitude of the representation ratio indicates the extent to which the DoD and CPS distributions differ.

Figure 7.1.  TSEI distribution for DoD and CPS fathers with DoD representation ratio.

  With one exception, the representation ratios for active duty and Reserve Component fathers were very close; consequently, they will be described together.  DoD fathers were underrepresented in the lowest two TSEI categories.  This range of scores includes low-status service occupations, as well as some machine operators.  The range of TSEI scores from 21 to 50 included over three quarters of the CPS fathers and 84 percent of DoD fathers.  This difference produced a representation ratio of 1.1, indicating a slightly larger proportion of DoD fathers than CPS fathers in this range.  For TSEI scores greater than 50, DoD representation decreased.  It averaged approximately 0.8 over the range, which encompasses 12 percent of DoD fathers and 15 percent of CPS fathers.  Thus, enlisted accessions tended to have fathers with occupations in the middle of the TSEI distribution, with both the high and low extremes underrepresented.  The single deviation from the general trend involved Reserve Component representation in the range of TSEI scores from 71 to 75.  The high representation ratio for this group (1.4) most likely reflects variability caused by the small number of respondents in this category.

Mothers’ TSEI scores ranged from 7 to 81 for both DoD and CPS mothers.  As was the case with fathers, the TSEI distribution was similar for Active and Reserve Components.  As shown in Figure 7.2, levels of TSEI below 65 were represented relatively equally among both Active and Reserve Component mothers, as indicated by a representation ratio that is fairly close to 1.0 (ranging from 0.8 to 1.2).  The representation ratio varies considerably for levels of TSEI above 65, due to the small number of respondents in these categories.  In this range, the average representation ratio was approximately 0.8.  Consequently, although there was a slight tendency for DoD mothers to be underrepresented in the lowest and highest TSEI groups, the accessions reasonably reflect the entire range of the distribution of mother’s TSEI scores.  Since the Survey of Recruit Socioeconomic Backgrounds excludes officer accessions, it would be expected to understate the average status of DoD parents.

Figure 7.2.  TSEI distribution for DoD and CPS mothers with DoD representation ratio.

Although DoD fathers, and to a lesser extent DoD mothers, were underrepresented in high-status occupations, as measured by the TSEI scales, these occupations represent only a small portion of the overall TSEI distribution in the general population.  Figure 7.3 shows the representation of DoD parents from each quartile of the general population.  As the quartiles divide CPS parents into equal fourths with regard to TSEI, DoD parents would also be equally divided among the quartiles if they were represented equally at all levels of TSEI.  Figure 7.3 shows that the highest quartile of the TSEI distribution was underrepresented among enlisted accessions.  For fathers, the deficit in the fourth quartile was compensated for by an excess in the second quartile, while the first and third quartiles were relatively accurately represented.  For mothers, the deviations from expected levels were small, and occurred in both the second and third quartiles.  Mothers of Reserve Component accessions were evenly distributed across the four quartiles.  These results give no indication that enlisted personnel are drawn primarily from the lowest social strata.

Figure 7.3.  DoD TSEI distribution related to CPS distribution quartiles.

In summary, enlisted accessions come from all socioeconomic levels.  However, there is a tendency for accessions to come from families in the lower three-quarters of the status distribution.  These differences are expressed in the occupations of the parents of accessions, as well as discrepancies in education and home ownership.  No systematic differences were discovered between active duty and Reserve Component accessions.  Including officer accessions in the analysis would be expected to increase the representation of higher social strata among military accessions.

[1] Hauser, R.M. and Warren, J.R.  Socioeconomic Indexes for Occupations:  A Review, Update, and Critique (Madison, WI: Center for Demography and Ecology, October 1996).

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