Trends in Attrition of High-Quality Military Recruits

by Richard Buddin

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This report documents attrition patterns in the U.S. military services from FY 1982 through FY 1985 and also examines attrition across training bases. The purpose of the study was to gain insight into why the recent improvements in the quality of recruits has not reduced attrition rates. Attrition patterns in recent cohorts suggest that attrition rates do not depend simply on the characteristics of individual recruits but also on other factors. These attrition patterns indicate that institutional or "demand-side" factors may play an important role in determining attrition rates. The findings indicate that the magnitude of cohort and training base effects differs by service. Service practices and policies may vary considerably at different bases and in different years. Thus, while recruit characteristics can be used to rank prospective recruits by risk category, different interpretation and enforcement of service policies seem to critically affect the actual attrition level.

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