All-volunteer US military still offers a pathway for young men

Apr 21, 2010

For many Americans coming out of high school, college, military service and the workforce represent the primary avenues of opportunity. With rising costs and stiff academic requirements, college tends to draw students from a relatively advantaged background. The all-volunteer military service also provides life opportunities to the "less advantaged" through access to material and educational benefits.

However, apart from patriotic values, it is unclear why young men continue to choose the military, with its inherent risks of combat, instead of college or the labor force. New research findings published in Social Science Quarterly address this question. Data are based on the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, with 6,900 young males between the ages of 18 and 27, from high schools across the U.S.

Lead author Glen H. Elder, Jr., a Faculty Fellow of the Carolina Population Center and Research Professor of Sociology at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, speaks of the attraction of the military for these young people, "The military offers enhanced life chances for them — especially when they lack the resources for college, both personal and socioeconomic, and view the military as a more promising pathway than entry-level opportunities in the workforce."

These enlistees tend to cluster in the middle range on cognitive ability, but rank below average on family income, and have not done as well as other youth in academics. They report friends in the military, but have minimal social support from family and school, and come with a history of contact sports and involvement in fights. This aggressive behavior is especially common among with poor grades in secondary school.

The study does not address the long-term effects of , but the evidence suggests that military service tends to minimize social inequalities. Further research will tell whether the pathway from relative disadvantage to military service defines a "positive turning point in life chances" for this generation.

Explore further: Change 'authoritarian' football culture to produce future stars, says research

More information: "Pathways to the All-Volunteer Military." Glen H. Elder, Jr., et.al. Social Science Quarterly; Published Online: April 6, 2010, DOI:10.1111/j.1540-6237.2010.00702.x

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Community provides essential support to military families

Apr 08, 2009

The deployment of military personnel to active war zones, which involves issues of separation, time away from home, and eventual reunion, increases the vulnerability of their families, The heavy reliance on National Guard ...

Young ex-servicemen at increased risk of suicide

Mar 02, 2009

Young men who have served in the British Armed Forces are up to three times more likely to take their own lives than their civilian counterparts, research published tomorrow (March 3) has found.

U.S., Canadian citizens differ in pride

Jun 28, 2006

U.S. and Canadian citizens are among the world's most patriotic, but a study suggests they are proud of their nations for differing reasons.

Army personnel show increased risk for migraine

Aug 27, 2008

Two new studies show that migraine headaches are very common among U.S. military personnel, yet the condition is frequently underdiagnosed. The studies, appearing in Headache, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Headac ...

Recommended for you

Male-biased tweeting

4 hours ago

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

Developing nations ride a motorcycle boom

6 hours ago

Asia's rapidly developing economies should prepare for a full-throttle increase in motorcycle numbers as average incomes increase, a new study from The Australian National University has found.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Male-biased tweeting

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

Archaeologists, tribe clash over Native remains

Archaeologists and Native Americans are clashing over Indian remains and artifacts that were excavated during a construction project in the San Francisco Bay Area, but then reburied at an undisclosed location.