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Demographic Shifts and Military Recruitment

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Bethany Pearson
September 8, 2017

In the United States, we have our military to serve and protect us. The military is made up of brave men and women who sign up to answer the call to serve a higher calling. With this duty, there comes a certain kind of responsibility. This responsibility is not for the faint of heart. In recent years, this call to duty has started to fall on deaf ears. Military recruitment is not as strong as it used to be. In fact, according to the Committee on Youth Population and Military Recruitment, in the 1990s, there has been a decline in youth military enlistment. The Department of Defense (DoD) has been searching for reasons for this and ways to remedy the situation. They established there were several reasons for the decline in enlisted youth. In this article, I want to focus on one of those listed reasons as well as one of my own. The DoD considered demographic shifts and the possible correlation with military recruitment.

military-655630_640These demographic shifts are showing young adults are not having children as young as they used to. There are many reasons for this: career, education, even lifestyle. The bottom line is the focus is not primarily on child bearing anymore. People are waiting on starting a family because they are finding other things take precedence.

How does this effect military recruitment? It forces the DoD to rethink their strategies in recruitment. It forces them to look at the data and try to figure out how best to go about recruiting future military servicemembers. Some of the data shows this may be more difficult than once thought.

Data shows that since more people are waiting to have children, more children are being raised by parents with some higher education. Further data shows this can be a major indicator in how the children will choose their path after high school. The Committee of Youth Population and Military Recruitment stated that this could be a reason that more youth are considering higher education rather than enlistment. DoD has concluded that although demographic shifts are happening, it isn’t a major contributing factor in the decline of recruitment.

As I research the topic, I find myself wondering if maybe the reason for low recruitment has something to do a lack of responsibility towards public service. These past 15 years has been rough. This country is involved in the longest war on record that many have long opposed. The country was deeply divided and the 2016 presidential campaign has not helped the situation. It has only contributed to the problem. Instead of working together, people are turning against each other. It has gotten to the point that there is no unified message from the government as they themselves are busy fighting each other as well. With all this turmoil amongst ourselves, there is no wonder why America has lost their sense of public service and duty.

Could this be a reason why recruitment in military is taking a hit? If the country were to become unified with a strong message of unity, could it help recruitment? If the DoD could cater more towards the higher education population would recruitment go up? There are a lot of questions that need further analysis before a concrete answer can be given. As far as demographic shifts are concerned, there is a connection to consequences regarding military recruitment, but not a significant connection.


Author: Bethany Pearson is a recent graduate of the Masters in Public Administration Program at Augusta University. She has a Bachelors in Secondary Education from Drake University. Bethany lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and two dogs.

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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