October 7, 2009

The Changing Pathways of Hispanic Youths Into Adulthood

VI. Military: A Road Less Traveled

Though the overall labor force participation rate of young Hispanic men has modestly increased from 1970 to 2007, the military is a much reduced pathway for young Hispanic males. In 1970, during the Vietnam War, 5% of young Hispanic males were employed in the armed forces (Figure 13).9 In 2007, about 1% were in the military.10 Among native-born Hispanic males, less than 2% were in the military in 2007 and the share of U.S.-born Hispanic males and black males (1.4%) in the military was smaller than the share of white males (2.0%) in the military.11

  1. The Vietnam war draft ended in 1973 so the 1970 figures do not reflect voluntary military service. In 1980 about 4% of young Hispanic males were employed in the armed forces, in comparison to 1% in 2007.
  2. Figure 13 shows the share of 16- to 25-year-old Hispanic males employed in the armed forces. By using this age range, the figure remains consistent with the other figures in the report. One might argue that it is not the proper age range because a youth must be 18 years of age to enlist. Nevertheless, the trend is the same. In 1970, 7% of 18- to 25-year-old Hispanic males were employed in the armed forces. By 2007, only 1% were in the military.
  3. The astute reader will infer that, among young males, white males were overrepresented in the military and that Hispanic males and black males were underrepresented. Enlistment figures published by the U.S. Department of Defense for fiscal year 2007 provide some support for this assertion. In FY 2007, 133,656 males enlisted in the military. The racial/ethnic representation of these male enlistees was 13% Hispanic, 67% non-Hispanic white and 11% non-Hispanic black. The U.S. Department of Defense compares these figures to the 18- to 24-year-old civilian male population, of which 19% were Hispanic, 62% were non-Hispanic white and 13% were non-Hispanic black. However, it might be argued that the entire civilian male population in that age range is not the proper comparison population. Almost all military enlistees in FY 2007 had completed a high school education. Comparing the enlistment figures to the 18-24 civilian male population that has the necessary educational qualifications might lead to different conclusions regarding under- or overrepresentation in the military (see Pew Hispanic Center, 2003).