A Huge Patriotic Component

Conn Carroll /

Freakonomics co-author Stephen Dubner picked up on some of the conclusions in our recent study “Who Serves in the U.S. Military? The Demographics of Enlisted Troops and Officers” yesterday. Dubner quoted the report: “The facts do not support the belief that many American soldiers volunteer because society offers them few opportunities. The average enlisted person or officer could have had lucrative career opportunities in the private sector.” Dubner responded:

Point No. 3 is almost an ideological argument rather than a factual one. But still, this much is clear: when discussing the U.S. military in the aggregate, the common notion that the military is a stop of last resort, increasingly staffed by low-income desperadoes with slim future prospects, cannot be right.

If the report has one significant ideological point to make, it’s that military participation has a huge patriotic/service component that is commonly overlooked, especially in portions of the country where military representation is far below average. (In the Northeast, for instance, the recruit-to-population ratio is just 0.73, compared to 1.19 in the South.)

Hey, speaking of the Northeast, here is video of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry talking about U.S. troops and education levels in 2006: