The Enlistment Bonus Experiment
Jan 1, 1986
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One of the principal challenges for defense managers in recent years has been to attract military recruits within a reasonable level of recruiting expenditure. This report describes the results of a nationwide experiment designed to provide new data on a key enlistment incentive: the cash enlistment bonus, which is paid to qualified recruits entering critical occupational specialties. The report documents the experiment, explains the analysis of its results, and assesses the effects of enlistment bonuses on the Army recruiting process. It addresses three principal effects of the bonus program: (1) attracting "high-quality" recruits into the Army; (2) encouraging enlistments in hard-to-fill critical specialties; and (3) influencing recruits to sign contracts for longer terms of service. The experimental results show that bonuses have substantial effects on recruiting and are a very flexible policy tool, making them a useful option for management of enlistment flows and for overcoming personnel shortages in critical skills.
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