Just For The Record

Mark Kleiman – who’s generally pretty sensible for someone with BDS (see his take on the Jacob Hacker “$1.6 trillion to $300 Million” health care proposal) makes a passing comment I didn’t want let stand…

Affirmative action is an attempt by an employer to increase the number of workers it draws from groups currently under-represented among its workforce. African-Americans are currently grossly over-represented in the armed services, especially in the enlisted ranks. So I find it utterly baffling that Eugene Volokh sees an inconsistency between (1) supporting affirmative action; (2) celebrating the success of the military in moving African-Americans up its career ladder; and (3) opposing efforts to further increase the over-representation of African-Americans by selectively recruiting them.

[emphasis mine]

I wrote Mark and asked where he’d heard that, since it resembles nothing I’d heard. He commented that he’d read that African-American soldiers in Iraq were bearing a hugely disproportionate number of the casualties there, and so he was pretty sure there was a higher percent of African Americans in military service.

I was pretty sure he was wrong. Actually, I was.The DoD compulsively tracks statistics and this is no exception. They have the most recent stats available (for 2004 – pdf) and find that

Table 3.3. FY 2004 Race of Active Component Enlisted Members,
by Service, and Civilian Labor Force 18-44 Years Old (Percent)
Race Army Navy Marine Corps Air Force DoD 18 to 44 Year Old Civilians
White 63.5 64.5 70.8 72.6 67.1 80.1
Black 25.1 21.5 13 17.3 20.6 12.6
American Indian & Alaskan Native 1 3 1.2 0.5 1.4 0.8
Asian 3 6 2.1 1.9 3.4 4.6
Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander 0 0.3 0.5 0.5 0.3 0.3
Two or more races 0 0.8 0.7 1.1 0.6 1.6
Unknown 7.5 3.9 11.7 6.1 6.7 0
Total 100 100 100 100 100 100

So yes, African-Americans are significantly (like 2x in the case of the Army) over represented in the military.

On the other hand…

I pointed him to iCasualties, which suggests that African-American soldiers have made up about 9.7% of the fatalities in OIF to date.

So why the underrepresentation here?

An interesting question. But I owe Kleiman an apology, and thought it best done in public.

12 thoughts on “Just For The Record”

  1. Black soldiers are under-represented in casualties because they are under-represented in direct-combat units, mainly infantry. Black recruits strongly tend to select specialties to enlist in that are marketable in the civilian economy. So combat specialties are “pale” and support specialities have the bulk of minority soldiers found in the Army.

  2. Ditto what Rev. Sensing said.

    Blacks have traditionally looked to the military for vocational training, and as a substitute for college. Whites who enlist before or after college are less interested in that and tend to choose combat branches.

    The majority of blacks who served in Vietnam were volunteers (as many as 70% by some accounts) and among volunteers blacks were massively overrepresented. Contrary to the cherished anti-war myth, the effect of the draft was to greatly increase the percentage of white soldiers in Vietnam. Blacks suffered a disproportionately high casualty rate in the early years of Vietnam, due to their overrepresentation and due to the fact that very many combat NCOs were black.

  3. Blacks are relatively overrepresented in the “person from a poor background doing this for the skills/college money” part of the military. The people who want to join the military not out of skills but out of sheer honor/duty/etc. who have already done college or are planning to do college anyway are more likely to go into infantry and other front-line combat duties. Overrepresented among their ranks are middle-class whites from rural areas and small towns, especially in the South.

  4. Blacks are also grossly overrepresented in the NBA, NFL, and MLB. Clearly these poor ignorant minorities are being brainwashed by evil white America, cruelly forced to bear the crushing weight of multi-million dollar contracts and the fawning adoration of fans.

    Who cries for Barry Bonds?

  5. I’d be interested to know how casualties (and race for that matter) are distributed by rank. I’ve heard that leutenants are first in casualties.

  6. I don’t have figures on rank distribution within casualties, but I can attest to the Army’s strong attempts to recruit, train and commission black male junior officers in proportion to their percent of the population.

  7. Maybe this is too small a nit to pick, but if it’s really the case that African-Americans are over-represented in the military but under-represented among casualties, wouldn’t you owe Mark a half-apology at most?

  8. Lewy,
    The WaPo did an article about this not too long ago. An excerpt:

    Rank: In both the Army and the Marines, enlisted personnel have 40 percent higher mortality than officers. The excess mortality of enlisted soldiers is diminished by the high mortality of the lowest-ranking officers, lieutenants, who are typically the leaders of combat patrols. Lieutenants have the highest mortality of any rank in the Army, 19 percent higher than all Army troops combined. Marine Corps lieutenants have 11 percent higher mortality than all Marines. But the single highest-mortality group in any service consists of lance corporals in the Marines, whose death risk is 3.3 times that of all troops in Iraq.

    The Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/25/AR2006082500940.html

    Not surprising really. LCpls are the single largest number of Marines. The last big take away was that Hispanics die more than whites, while blacks die significantly less.


  9. Well, that would follow, wouldn’t it? If a disproportionate number of blacks choose specialties as service and logistics troops, where casualties are usually lighter, then you’d expect the proportion of black casualties to be lower. Wonder if the DOD has run the correlations?

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