Its always interesting when someone successfully challenges a widely-held assumption. Like much of America, I have always accepted the notion that the all-volunteer army attracted a disproportionate number of poorer enlistees. This made sense, since a large part of the recruiting message is one of education and opportunity, which should be powerful inducements to folks trying to get themselves out of poverty. A few have argued that this is not true, that messages of duty, honor, and country resonate with all classes, but we have all been trained of late by the cynical media that those are dated and powerless concepts. The main difference in perception about army demographics has been between those who thought the perceived demographic skew was bad and those who thought it just was. A number folks of late have actually supported a draft due to this perception of a demographic bias.
So it was interesting to see this study by Tim Kane, as unearthed by Mark Tapscott, that tends to explode this myth. Not having family income data for army enlistees, the study chose as a reasonable proxy the relative wealth of their home zip code. Based on this methodology, we find that the all-volunteer army actually skews rich rather than poor:
As with all studies like this, I caveat that I have not seen their methodology, etc. etc. However, it is interesting in that it is completely opposite of public perception. Since I didn't really find anything horrible about the old perceived skew, this study doesn't change any of my opinions on the army or the draft, but it will be interesting to see if Charlie Rangel reverses course and starts criticizing the army for being a rich kid's boondoggle.