Significant racial/ethnic differences exist among the Services, as shown in Table 2.5. Approximately 39 and 42 percent of Army and Navy accessions, respectively, are minorities, as compared to 33 percent of Marine Corps recruits and 32 percent of Air Force recruits. The overall percentage of minority recruits increased slightly from 37 percent in FY 1999 to 38 percent in FY 2000. The larger proportion of minority recruits generally mirrors the trend in the comparable civilian population.
Figure 2.2 illustrates the race/ethnicity distribution of enlisted accessions for the 28-year period, FYs 19732000. [footnote 18] Understanding the race/ethnicity profiles requires some explanation of events during the years up to 1985, before describing the current situation. The percentage of minority enlisted accessions increased, with some fluctuations, during the years following the end of conscription. The number of Black accessions peaked in FY 1979. Hispanic accessions also peaked in FY 1979 (ignoring aberrant data for FY 1976). Accessions of "Other" minorities, a very small proportion of new recruits, have generally shown a gradual increase from less than 1 percent in FY 1973 to 6 percent in FY 2000. The increase of minorities coincided with a miscalibration of the ASVAB, and consequent drop in the aptitude of accessions, both Whites and minorities, beginning in January 1976. The miscalibration led to erroneous enlistment of many low-scoring applicants. Thus, representation of minorities, particularly Blacks (whose test scores, on average, are generally lower than those of Whites), increased during the miscalibration period. The error was corrected by September 1980. [footnote 19]
Figure 2.2. Race/ethnicity of Active Component NPS accessions, FYs 19732000.
Revised AFQT and education standards in the early 1980s limited the high minority representation levels of the late 1970s. [footnote 20] By FY 1983, the proportion of Black recruits had returned to approximately the same level as before the test scoring error (18 percent Blacks in FY 1975). By the mid-1980s, a gradual increase had resumed. Not until FY 1987 did Hispanic recruit levels return to FY 1975 proportions. Higher high school dropout rates among Hispanics (29 percent), compared to Whites and Blacks (7 and 13 percent, respectively), confound the recruitment of qualified Hispanic applicants. [footnote 21] The Services have accessed a greater proportion of Hispanics each year since FY 1985, when less than 4 percent of enlistees were Hispanic. Today, more than 11 percent of enlistees are Hispanic.
Blacks. In FY 2000, Blacks comprised nearly 20 percent of enlisted recruits, approximately 6 percentage points more than in the civilian population (14 percent). The Army continues to have the highest percentage of Black accessions, 23 percent in FY 2000. In the aftermath of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and in the midst of the drawdown (FY 1991), there were lower proportions of Black recruits than in previous years. From FY 1992 to FY 2000 there were slight increases in Black accession rates most years, nearly reaching pre-drawdown levels of 21 percent Black accessions.
While Black men comprise nearly 18 percent of DoD male recruits, Black women make up more than 29 percent of female recruits (Table 2-5 and Appendix Table B-3). Black women in FY 2000 comprised 36 percent of Army female recruits, 28 percent of Navy female recruits, 18 percent of Marine Corps female recruits, and 26 percent of Air Force female recruits. In comparison, the proportion of Black men ranged from 12 percent of Marine Corps male recruits to 20 percent of Army male recruits.
Hispanics. As the proportion of Hispanics has been increasing in the civilian population, so has the proportion of enlisted Hispanics. However, Hispanics were underrepresented among enlisted accessions in FY 2000, 11 percent of recruits compared to 15 percent of civilian 18- to 24-year-olds. The Marine Corps had the highest proportion of Hispanic accessions (15 percent) in FY 2000, followed by the Navy, Army, and Air Force (12, 11, and 7 percent, respectively).
The proportion of Hispanic accessions has increased over the years (Appendix Table D-7). In FY 1983, less than 4 percent of new recruits were Hispanic. Today, more than 11 percent of enlisted accessions are Hispanic. One factor influencing the representation of Hispanics in the military is high school graduation rates; Hispanics are less likely to earn a high school diploma than those in other racial/ethnic groups. [footnote 22] In FY 2000, 57 percent of 18- to 24-year-old Hispanics completed high school (Tier 1) or earned an alternative credential (Tier 2) compared to 74 percent of Blacks and 84 percent of Whites.
"Other" minorities. Members of "Other" racial minorities (e.g., Native Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders) are greater than 6 percent; they are slightly overrepresented in the Services. The proportion of "Other" minorities ranges from 5 to 9 percent in the Services, with the Navy having the largest percentage. In the civilian population, 5 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds are "Other" racial minorities, an increase of more than 2 percentage points since FY 1981.
[footnote 19] Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower, Reserve Affairs, and Logistics), A Report to the House Committee on Armed Services: Aptitude Testing of Recruits (Washington, DC, 1980). [back to paragraph]
[footnote 20] Congressional Budget Office, Social Representation in the U. S. Military (Washington, DC, 1989), p. 54. [back to paragraph]
[footnote 21] See U.S. Department of Education, The Digest of Education Statistics 2000 (NCES 2001-034) (Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 2001), Table 106; and U.S. Department of Education, Dropout Rates in the United States: 1999 (NCES 2001-022) (Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 2000), Table A. [back to paragraph]
[footnote 22] See U.S. Department of Education, The Condition of Education 2001 (NCES 2001-072) (Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 2001), p. 51; U.S. Department of Education, Dropout Rates in the United States 1999 (NCES 2001-022) (Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 2000), pp. 17-19; and previous Population Representation reports. [back to paragraph]