With the inception of the All Volunteer Force (AVF) in 1973, Army recruiting success has been closely tied to changes in youth labor markets. In making post-high school decisions, American youth compare enlisting in the military with other alternatives, such as continued education and work. Consequently, the future of recruiting in the Army depends, in large part, on the prospects facing American youth. Understanding trends in the size and composition of subsequent cohorts of high school graduates, as well as the labor market alternatives they face, can help the Army to set appropriate manpower policies. This paper examines trends in the youth labor market from a number of demographic and economic perspectives. Since the Army's recruiting efforts in the AVF era have been influenced by the baby boom and bust of the last two decades, the authors devote the first two sections to a discussion of the demographic trends affecting the size and composition of past and future youth cohorts. The authors then proceed to identify the trends in educational attainment which affect the pool of potential military recruits. Finally, the authors present data on the labor market prospects facing new entrants, with particular emphasis on dramatic changes in the U.S. wage structure in the last decade.
Originally published in: Marching Toward the 21st Century: Military Manpower and Recruiting, Mark J. Eitelberg and Stephen L. Mehay, eds., Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994, pp. 41-65.
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