A mercenary army of the poor? Technological change and the demographic composition of the post-9/11 U.S. military

A mercenary army of the poor? Technological change and the demographic composition of the post-9/11 U.S. military

Andrea Asoni
Antitrust & Competition

Is the American military a mercenary army of the poor, as some critics of U.S. foreign policy suggest? In this article, Andrea Asoni and co-authors Andrea Gilli, Mauro Gilli, and Tino Sanandaji analyse individual-level data of two national representative samples covering the period 1979–2008. The authors find that, in contrast to accepted wisdom, the U.S. military no longer primarily recruits individuals from the most disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. Technological, tactical, operational, and doctrinal changes have led to a change in the demand for personnel. As a result, on different metrics such as family income and family wealth as well as cognitive abilities, military personnel performs, on average, like or slightly better than the civilian population.

Journal of Strategic Studies