ACTIVE COMPONENT ENLISTED FORCE
Race/Ethnicity. The military attracts and retains higher proportions of Blacks but lower proportions of Hispanics than are in the civilian labor force. As Table 3.3 indicates, the overall proportion of enlisted racial minorities was higher than the proportion in the civilian labor force in FY 2004 (26 and 20 percent, respectively, not including unknowns). Hispanics, shown in Table 3.4, were underrepresented among enlisted members (10 percent versus 16 percent).
In FY 2004, 21 percent of the enlisted force was Black, compared with 13 percent of the civilian labor force (18–44 year-olds). The Army had the highest proportion of Black enlisted members in FY 2004 (25 percent). Other racial groups are more proportionately represented. For example, the enlisted force is composed of just over 1 percent of American Indian/Alaskan Natives, compared to just under 1 percent of the civilian comparison group; and just over 3 percent of Asians compared to just under 5 percent of civilians. Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders (NHPI) and those of two or more races are similarly represented.
Black soldiers in the Army increased from 18 percent in FY 1973 to a high of 33 percent in FY 1981. That proportion decreased to 30 percent by the mid-1980s, in large part due to an increase in entrance standards and the Army's decision not to renew enlistment contracts of low-scoring members who entered during the ASVAB misnorming. The proportion of Blacks in the Army has decreased during the past 10 years, from 32 percent in FY 1990 to 25 percent in FY 2004, dropping 1 percentage point from last year’s 26 percent. The Marine Corps has experienced similar decreases in Blacks during recent years.
Decreases in the Army and Marine Corps parallel the drop in minority accessions in FY 1991 and the concomitant decrease in the propensity to enlist among Black youth. [Footnote 2] The Navy, on the other hand, has exhibited a consistent long-term increase in the proportion of Blacks, from 8 percent in FY 1973 to 22 percent in FY 2004. In all Services, the percentage of female members who are Black significantly exceeds the percentage of male members who are Black, 33 percent female compared to 18 percent male in FY 2004 (Appendix Table B-24).
In FY 2004, active duty Hispanic enlisted members were a smaller part of the enlisted force than of the civilian labor force in the 18–44 age group (10 percent and 16 percent, respectively). Although Hispanic enlisted members were underrepresented in FY 2004, Hispanic representation in the Services has increased nearly 6 percentage points since 1985, when less than 4 percent of the enlisted force was Hispanic.
Hispanics are the fastest growing group in the United States. In 1985, the 18- to 44-year-old civilian labor force included nearly 7 percent declaring Hispanic descent. By 1994, the civilian population boasted more than 10 percent Hispanics, compared to less than 6 percent in the DoD. According to projections, this trend will continue. [Footnote 3] The military’s increases, on average, have nearly, but not quite, kept pace with the rate of growth of Hispanics in the civilian population during the last 15 years. However, DoD has not been able to catch up to the percentages of those of Hispanic origin in the civilian labor force.
[Footnote 2] Memorandum from Alphonso Maldon, Jr., Assistant Secretary of Defense (Force Management Policy), Subject: 1999 Youth Attitude Tracking Study, January 11, 2000. [back to paragraph]
[Footnote 3] U.S. Census Bureau.
Projections of the Resident Population by Race, Hispanic Origin, and
Nativity: Middle Series, 2006 to 2010. URL: http://www.census.gov/population/www/projections/popproj.html