4
Trends in Youth Qualifications and Enlistment Standards

The discussion of military requirements in Chapter 2 distinguished two different aspects of manpower requirements, one having to do with the quantity of personnel and the other related to the qualifications of personnel (sometimes abbreviated “quality” by the military services). While force structure dictates the number of people needed to fill military units, the qualifications of those people in terms of knowledge, aptitudes, skills, and motivation determines the effectiveness of those units.

Manpower qualifications include a cluster of human attributes that influence how well a new recruit can adjust to military life and how well the recruit can perform in military jobs. Based on many years of research and experience, the two most important qualifications for military service are aptitudes (as measured by the AFQT—the Armed Forces Qualification Test) and a high school diploma. Other qualifications include good physical health and moral character (e.g., no criminal record). Recognizing the importance of these qualifications for effective military performance, the Department of Defense (DoD) sets various standards that specify minimum levels of these qualifications in order to be eligible for enlistment. These levels comprise what are known as “enlistment standards.”

When evaluating the problem of recruiting shortfalls, both quantity and qualifications are involved. If manpower qualifications were of no concern, there would be far less likelihood of recruiting shortfalls, simply because the number of youth available in a single birth cohort is 20 times the number of youth needed in any given year. When enlistment



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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment 4 Trends in Youth Qualifications and Enlistment Standards The discussion of military requirements in Chapter 2 distinguished two different aspects of manpower requirements, one having to do with the quantity of personnel and the other related to the qualifications of personnel (sometimes abbreviated “quality” by the military services). While force structure dictates the number of people needed to fill military units, the qualifications of those people in terms of knowledge, aptitudes, skills, and motivation determines the effectiveness of those units. Manpower qualifications include a cluster of human attributes that influence how well a new recruit can adjust to military life and how well the recruit can perform in military jobs. Based on many years of research and experience, the two most important qualifications for military service are aptitudes (as measured by the AFQT—the Armed Forces Qualification Test) and a high school diploma. Other qualifications include good physical health and moral character (e.g., no criminal record). Recognizing the importance of these qualifications for effective military performance, the Department of Defense (DoD) sets various standards that specify minimum levels of these qualifications in order to be eligible for enlistment. These levels comprise what are known as “enlistment standards.” When evaluating the problem of recruiting shortfalls, both quantity and qualifications are involved. If manpower qualifications were of no concern, there would be far less likelihood of recruiting shortfalls, simply because the number of youth available in a single birth cohort is 20 times the number of youth needed in any given year. When enlistment

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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment standards are factored in, the number of qualified youth contracts appreciably. Since enlistment standards and the supply of qualified youth can change over time, present or future recruiting shortfalls can arise either from higher enlistment standards or from declining qualifications in the youth population. The primary purpose of this chapter is to examine trends in the supply of qualified youth in relation to enlistment standards and to assess whether gaps exist now or might exist in the future. The chapter begins with a summary of current military enlistment standards, the rationale for those standards, and the possibility of future changes in requirements that would increase or decrease these standards. The chapter then moves to the supply side and examines trends in youth attributes, including education, aptitudes, physical characteristics, and moral character. There are two demographic considerations that complicate the supply of youth qualifications, one relating to gender and one relating to race and ethnicity. Regarding gender, not all military jobs or units are open to women, particularly ground combat units in the Army and the Marine Corps;1 furthermore, women do not have the same propensity to enlist as men. Accordingly, the military has to recruit more men than women, which necessarily reduces supply. Regarding race and ethnicity, DoD has always desired reasonable representation of all racial and ethnic groups, although it does not impose any type of arbitrary targets or quotas. Since different racial and ethnic groups can have different rates of qualifying characteristics and different propensities to enlist, a representation goal creates further constraints on the supply of qualified youth. For these reasons, some of the trends in youth qualifications are examined within these demographic categories. MANPOWER REQUIREMENTS AND ENLISTMENT STANDARDS Current Enlistment Standards This section outlines various enlistment standards (or requirements) used by DoD to screen volunteers for military service. Some standards are common across all Services, such as education and certain aptitude measures, while others vary somewhat by Service. A few standards (e.g., physical fitness) are unique to a single Service. In most cases one can calculate the effects of these standards on reducing the eligible recruit 1   Approximately 24 percent of Air Force enlisted personnel are women; virtually all jobs in the Air Force are open to women except special operations helicopter personnel, including pilots and para rescue.

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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment population; this is generally true for education and aptitude requirements. In other cases, such as certain physical and moral standards, there are no precise population measures, so one can only estimate their impact on the potential recruit population. The enlistment standards reviewed here include education, aptitudes, physical or medical attributes, moral character, and certain demographic characteristics. Our primary focus is on DoD-wide standards; Service-specific standards are discussed as appropriate. There are two types of DoD enlistment standards. One type consists of absolute minimums or maximums set by statute or by DoD policy directives. The other type comes from Defense Guidance, which provides DoD policy benchmarks used during the budgeting process.2 While Defense Guidance benchmarks are not rigid requirements, the secretary of defense monitors Services budgets for compliance and may require budget reallocations in order to meet the benchmarks. Education: Defense Guidance says that at least 90 percent of non-prior-service accessions must have a high school diploma. Youth with GED certificates are considered nondiploma graduates. Aptitudes: Minimum aptitude standards are expressed in terms of categories of the AFQT, as follows: Category I is the 93rd–99th percentile; Category II is 65th–92nd percentile; Category IIIA is 50th–64th percentile; Category IIIB is 31st–49th percentile; Category IV is 10th–30th percentile; and Category V is below the 10th percentile. Minimum aptitude standards: Youth who score in Category V are ineligible to enlist by statute. No Service may enlist more than 20 percent Category IV recruits by statute. Defense Guidance: At least 60 percent of accessions in each Service should be Category I-IIIA. No Service should enlist more than 4 percent Category IV, and all should be high school diploma graduates. 2   Defense Planning Guidance is issued annually by the secretary of defense to all military departments and agencies during the early stages of the budgeting process. It provides goals and priorities for preparing the budget and consequently defines DoD policy in many areas. For example, the education and aptitude benchmarks allow the Services to establish sufficient resources in their recruiting budgets to meet these benchmarks. Service budget submissions are monitored for compliance during the year, and should achievement of the benchmarks be in doubt, the secretary of defense may require reallocation of resources in the final version of the budget submitted to Congress.

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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment Physical and medical requirements (DoD Directive 6130.3, December 15, 2000): To be eligible for enlistment, applicants must be: Free of contagious diseases that probably will endanger the health of other personnel; Free of medical conditions or physical defects that may require excessive time lost from duty for necessary treatment or hospitalization or probably will result in separation from the Service for medical unfitness; Medically capable of satisfactorily completing required training; Medically adaptable to the military environment without the necessity of geographical area limitations; Medically capable of performing duties without aggravation of existing physical defects or medical conditions. Moral character (DoD Directive 1304.26, December 21, 1993): Moral standards are designed to disqualify: Individuals under any form of judicial restraint (e.g., bond, probation, imprisonment, or parole); Individuals with significant criminal records (i.e., a felony conviction); Individuals who have been previously separated from Military Service under conditions other than honorable or for the good of the Service; Individuals who have exhibited antisocial behavior or other traits of character that would render them unfit to associate with military personnel. Demographic (DoD Directive 1304.26, December 21, 1993): Age: At least 17, not more than 35. Citizenship: Citizen or legal permanent resident. Dependency: If married, no more than 2 dependents under 18; if unmarried, ineligible with custody of dependents under 18. Sexual orientation: Irrelevant; however, homosexual conduct is disqualifying. Each branch of Service may set enlistment standards above these minimums, and in fact each Service has a separate set of aptitude requirements for each major type of job in that Service. These job-specific aptitude requirements are made up from various subtests of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), and they differ by Service. For the purpose of this report, it is not necessary to go into the details for each Service’s aptitude requirements for each job, but there is a recent report by the RAND Corporation that provides such detail (Levy et al., 2001).

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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment Rationale for Enlistment Standards Since enlistment standards affect the size of the population eligible for enlistment, during a time of recruiting shortages there must be a clear rationale for these manpower requirements, especially for those requirements that reduce the size of the eligible population to a significant degree. In this regard, the enlistment standards involving education and aptitudes are perhaps the two most important. Education standards have been justified primarily on the basis of first-term attrition rates. Research conducted over many decades has demonstrated repeatedly that non-high school graduates have very high attrition rates during their first term of enlistment, rates that are nearly twice as high as for high school diploma graduates. High attrition rates impose a substantial manpower cost, driving up the number of accessions needed to maintain force size and increasing training costs substantially. Table 4-1 shows enlisted attrition rates calculated by the Defense Manpower Data Center for cohorts entering military service during the 10-year period from 1988 to 1998. The average 24-month attrition rate for high school diploma graduates is about 23 percent, compared with 44 percent for non-high school graduates. It is important to note that attrition rates are nearly as high for GED graduates (the largest number of high school equivalency certificates) as for nongraduates, thereby justifying education standards based on having a high school diploma. Aptitude standards have been justified on several grounds. Historically, aptitude standards were justified by passing rates in training schools and other commonsense criteria, such as reading skills. For example, a Category IV recruit reads at only the 3rd or 4th grade level, which means that even the most basic training manuals for the easiest jobs are beyond their reading comprehension ability. More recently, DoD requested a comprehensive study of job perfor- TABLE 4-1 24-Month Enlisted Attrition Rates by Education, 1988–1998 Education Number 24-month Attrition (%) HS diploma graduate 2,027,546 23.4 College 95,628 25.5 Adult education 32,330 36.8 HS GED 73,371 41.2 HS certificate of completion 6,798 35.4 Other Equivalent 1,149 34.5 Non-HS graduate 26,440 43.7 Total DoD (less missing data) 2,263,262 24.5   SOURCE: Data from Defense Manpower Data Center (2001).

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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment mance that found substantial correlations between AFQT scores and performance in a wide range of enlisted jobs, including combat specialties (National Research Council, 1991, 1994). Not only did these correlations validate the use of AFQT for setting aptitude standards, but also the correlations were used in special cost-benefit studies to establish optimal education and aptitude cutoff scores under various assumptions about the cost of high-quality accessions. These cost-benefit studies were used to help establish the minimum aptitude standards currently used by the DoD. The Defense Guidance criteria recommends a maximum of 4 percent Category IV accessions, which is considerably lower than the 20 percent maximum set by minimum aptitude standards. Since the cost-performance model did not establish 60 percent Category I-IIIA as an absolute minimum, it is possible that, in the face of a shortfall problem, a modest increase in Category IIIB recruits in place of Category IIIA (with high school diplomas) would not appreciably lower military job performance. The justification for this conclusion is the relationship between AFQT scores and job performance scores, as shown in Figure 4-1 (National Research Council, 1994:20). At all levels of job experience, Category I-II personnel have much higher hands-on job performance scores than Category FIGURE 4-1 Job performance and AFQT (from the JPM Project, by AFQT and job experience). SOURCE: National Research Council (1994).

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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment III personnel, while Category IV personnel score much lower. In contrast, however, the performance scores between Category IIIA and Category IIIB personnel are very close, with an average difference of only about 2 points. TRENDS IN APPLICANT AND RECRUIT QUALIFICATIONS One way to evaluate the role of enlistment standards in recruiting shortages is to consider historical trends in recruiting success with respect to the major standards. Historical trends can be examined for pools of applicants as well as for cohorts actually enlisting each year. In this chapter, an applicant is defined as a person who has contacted a recruiting office and gets at least as far as taking the ASVAB.3 The applicant pool includes those who go on to enlist and those who do not, for whatever reason. On one hand, trends in applicant numbers give some idea of potential supply, although since applicants have made contact with the recruiting station, they are not necessarily representative of the total youth population. On the other hand, trends in accession cohorts tell us about the qualifications of those actually enlisting, thereby revealing the extent to which the Services are meeting or exceeding enlistment standards. Education Levels Figure 4-2 shows trends in education levels for applicants (enlisted force) between 1980 and 2000. Three levels of education are identified: those who have graduated from high school or have had some years of college, those with a high school equivalency certificate of some type such as a GED, and nongraduates. Those who have attended some college (not shown in the figure) comprised about 10 percent of applicants during the 1980s, but those with some college declined to less than 4 percent after 1990. The peak in applicants with high school diplomas occurred in 1992 at 97 percent, and it has been declining since that time. In 1999 it fell below 90 percent for the first time since 1982, and it remained below 90 percent in 2000. This downward trend in applicants with high school diplomas is offset by a slight increase in the percent of applicants with a GED or other high school credential, which rose steadily during the 1990s and reached 10 percent or more in 1999 and 2000. The percent of applicants who did 3   The applicant pool excludes persons (1) who take the ASVAB in high school but do not contact recruiting offices or (2) who contact a recruiting office but are screened out during the preliminary interview for various reasons without taking the ASVAB.

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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment FIGURE 4-2 Trends in education for military applicants (enlisted force). SOURCE: Data from Defense Manpower Data Center (2001). NOTE: GED/alt = high school equivalency certification. not graduate from high school declined rapidly during the early 1980s, and throughout the 1990s it has comprised less than 2 percent of all applicants. Clearly, the decline in diploma graduates is being filled by GED certificates and it appears that nongraduates are not being encouraged to apply for military service. The applicant trends can be compared to the accession trends in Figure 4-3, which are virtually identical to the trends in Figure 4-2. The rate of accessions with high school diplomas rose during the 1980s, peaked in 1992 at 98 percent, and then gradually declined until 2000. In 1999 the diploma rate fell below 90 percent for the first time since 1982. As with applicants, the rate of accessions with GEDs or other high school certificates has risen to just below 10 percent, while the percent of new recruits who are non-high school graduates has remained below 2 percent since 1987. Between the mid-1980s and the late 1990s, all Services were able to meet their recruiting targets while sustaining rates of 90 percent or more accessions with high school diplomas. Since 1995 the rate of high school diploma accessions began dropping, and in 1999 and 2000 it finally fell below 90 percent for the first time in many years. Interestingly, the Services have made up the gap in nondiploma graduates by recruiting mostly persons holding GEDs and other high school equivalency credentials rather than recruiting nongraduates, even though their attrition profiles

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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment FIGURE 4-3 Trends in education for military accessions (enlisted force). SOURCE: Data from Defense Manpower Data Center (2001). NOTE: GED/alt = high school equivalency certification. are not that different. Like the applicant rate, the rate of accessions who are nongraduates has remained below 2 percent since 1991. It is noted that the Army and the Navy have the greatest difficulty meeting the Defense Guidance minimum of 90 percent high school diploma graduates. In 1999 both the Army and the Navy fell to 88 percent high school graduates, while the Marine Corps and the Air Force recruited 95 and 98 percent high school graduates, respectively. This downward trend in the accession of high school diploma graduates is especially noteworthy given the population trends in high school graduation and dropout rates. As we discuss later, high school dropout rates have continued to fall for the past 10 years, so the trends in military applicants and accessions appear to reflect youth propensity rather than the supply of qualified youth. Aptitude Levels The trends in applicant aptitudes, as measured by the AFQT, are shown in Figure 4-4. Like the education trends, the percentage of Category I–IIIA applicants rose steadily during the 1980s and early 1990s, peaking in 1992 at 61 percent, and then showing a gradual decline up to 2000 when it fell to about 53 percent. Correspondingly, the percent of

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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment FIGURE 4-4 Trends in aptitudes for military applicants (enlisted force). SOURCE: Data from Defense Manpower Data Center (2001). Category IV applicants declined during the 1980s and then stabilized at between 15 and 17 percent. The loss of above-average applicants has been largely replaced by a modest increase in the percentage of Category IIIB applicants, which rose from 25 percent in 1992 to 30 percent in 2000. Again, the trends in accession aptitudes are quite similar to applicants, with one major exception: the percentage of Category IV accessions dropped throughout the 1980s and then continued to drop throughout the 1990s (Figure 4-5).4 Category IV accessions have not been above 2 percent since 1990, and their highest level in the past decade was 1.4 percent in 1999 (the most difficult recruiting year in recent times). Thus the Services have had no difficulty meeting the DoD maximum of 20 percent Category IV accessions, and they remained well under the Defense Guidance maximum of 4 percent even during the most difficult recruiting years. With respect to Category I–IIIA goal, while the Services no longer reach levels of 70 percent or more that were common in the early 1990s, they have remained well above the Defense Guidance minimum of 60 percent. Even in the most challenging recruiting year, 1999, the Services recruited 65 percent high-aptitude enlistees overall. The Army had the 4   The sharp increase in the percentage of Category IV accessions in 1981 followed by a sharp drop was due to an ASVAB misnorming problem and subsequent recruiting changes in the aftermath. The misnorming problem was a technical test scoring error such that persons classified as Category IIIB were, in actuality, Category IV.

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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment FIGURE 4-5 Trends in aptitudes for military accessions (enlisted force). SOURCE: Data from Defense Manpower Data Center (2001). fewest but still attained 62 percent. As the recruiting environment became more difficult during the late 1990s, it appears that in the cost and quality trade-offs between education and aptitude, the Services were more willing to accept a limited number of non-high school diploma graduates (with GEDs) rather than Category IV recruits. A summary of education and aptitude trends is shown in Figure 4-6, which provides trends in the percentage of “highly qualified” applicants and accessions. A highly qualified youth is a young person in Category I– IIIA who also has a high school diploma. After reaching all-time lows in 1980 because of the ASVAB misnorming problem, the percent of highly qualified applicants and accessions reached historic highs of 61 and 75 percent, respectively, in 1992. After those years the percent of highly qualified applicants and accessions began a steady decline, falling to lows of 52 and 64 percent, respectively, in 1999. Highly qualified accessions rose about 0.5 percent in 2000. Although the rate of highly qualified accessions is still high by historical standards, the downward trend would be a matter of concern if it continues. With the increasing use of high-technology equipment in all aspects of military operations, most military manpower experts believe that aptitude needs will be greater in coming years. At the very least, military planners would like to stop the downward trend. An important question is the extent to which the downward trend is driven by a decline

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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment FIGURE 4-10 Trends in high school graduation rates by gender (ages 25–29). SOURCE: Data from Current Population Surveys (various years). marker for the enlisted force is high school graduation. Figure 4-10 shows trends in high school graduation rates broken down by gender. For the nation as a whole, high school graduation rates have risen from 80 percent in 1972 to 88 percent in 2000. During the 1970s, male graduation rates were two or three points higher than female rates, but since the late 1980s this pattern has reversed, and females have had slightly higher graduation rates than males. In the year 2000, graduation rates were 89 percent for females and 87 percent for males. Figure 4-11 examines youth graduation rates by race or ethnicity. For white youth, graduation rates have remained relatively constant since the late 1970s, rising slightly from 86 to 88 percent by 2000. The most significant change has occurred for black youth, whose graduation rates rose dramatically from about 65 percent in 1972 to over 85 percent by 1995. Since 1995, graduation rates for black students have remained very close to white rates. In contrast, the graduation rate for Hispanic youth has not improved much and remains substantially below the rates for black and white youth. Hispanic graduation rates have risen just 5 points in the past 25 years, from about 58 percent in 1976 to only 63 percent in 2000. In fact, the Hispanic graduation rate in 2000 was not as high as the black rate was in 1972. It appears, then, that over the past few decades the supply of youth with high school diplomas has improved slightly for whites and very substantially for blacks, and thus there is not likely to be a problem with the future supply of these two groups. There must be some concern about

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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment FIGURE 4-11 Trends in high school graduation rates by race/ethnicity (ages 25–29). SOURCE: Data from Current Population Surveys (various years). Hispanic youth, however, who had very low graduation rates even in 2000. This low graduation rate will make it more difficult for the Services to increase their Hispanic representation. Aptitude Levels The best long-term trend data on academic aptitudes and skills comes from the NAEP project, which has been administering achievement tests to national samples of students since 1970 (Campbell et al., 2000). These achievement tests are administered every two to four years to 4th, 8th, and 12th graders (ages 9, 13, and 17), and the subject matter covers reading comprehension, mathematics computation and concepts, and science. Although these tests are not identical to the subtests used in the AFQT, which is comprised of subtests in word knowledge, paragraph meaning, arithmetic reasoning, and math knowledge, the NAEP reading and mathematics content areas are similar. NAEP contains two separate measures: the NAEP trend data, which is the focus here, and a second assessment known as national NAEP. National NAEP is more closely linked to curriculum, and its content changes to stay abreast of curriculum changes. This report focuses on the NAEP trend data, as the measures used are more similar than the national NAEP to AFQT content. It is worth noting that the national NAEP results indicate that there is some substantial growth in mathematics achievement for the nation’s students as a whole, as well as for all groups of students.

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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment FIGURE 4-12 National trends in reading achievement. SOURCE: Data from National Assessment of Educational Progress. Note that the use of the labels “aptitude” and “achievement” reflect the intended use of the different tests. The Services use the term “aptitude as the AFQT is being used to forecast future job performance; NAEP uses the term “achievement” as the test is being used as a description of current levels of accomplishment. Different users assign the labels of ability, achievement, and aptitude to very similar tests. Figures 4-12 through 4-14 present trends in reading, math, and science scores for the three NAEP age groups. For the reading scores shown in Figure 4-12, the trends are just about flat; there are no significant increases or decreases in reading skills for any of the three age groups between 1971 and 1999. For the math scores shown in Figure 4-13, a different pattern emerges. All three age groups show upward trends in math scores starting in 1982. Age 17 students experienced a slight decline of about 5 points in math between 1973 and 1982, but then they show a steady increase up to 1992. After 1992 the math scores for age 17 level off, but they end the period several points higher than they were in 1973. After 1978 the age 13 math scores show gradual increases until 1999; altogether 13-year-olds gained more than 10 points, which is about one-third of a standard deviation.7 But the largest gains occurred for age 9 students, whose math scores rose 13 points between 1973 and 1999. 7   On most standardized tests, students gain about one standard deviation per year in the early grades.

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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment FIGURE 4-13 National trends in math achievement. SOURCE: Data from National Assessment of Educational Progress. Finally, the science achievement trends shown in Figure 4-14 are similar to math scores in that after 1982 all age groups have rising science scores. All three groups show declines in science scores during the 1970s, and the drop was especially bad for age 17 students, whose scores dropped by more than 20 points between 1970 and 1982. After 1982 all science scores were on the rise, although age 17 students have not re FIGURE 4-14 National trends in science achievement. SOURCE: Data from National Assessment of Educational Progress.

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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment gained their 1970 highs; they are still 10 points behind. The other two age groups have been able to surpass their 1970 scores, age 13 by 1 point and age 9 by 4 points. It is interesting that the turnaround in both math and science scores occurred the same year that A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) appeared, a report that proclaimed a crisis in American education and which prescribed a series of reforms aimed at reversing these declining test score trends. For the purpose of projecting future levels in aptitudes and skills for the youth population, the age 9 grades scores are most important since they will become the 18-year-olds of the future. The cohorts of age 9 students between 1992 and 1999 will become the age 18 cohorts between the years 2000 and 2007, so it is especially important to consider those scores. In addition, since the military uses the 50th percentile to define highly qualified persons, it would be worthwhile to convert the NAEP scores to 50th percentile scores before discussing the future supply of youth with higher skills and aptitudes. One would expect the trends to be about the same, but if changes have occurred at the top or bottom of the score distribution, it is possible that trends in median scores might differ somewhat from trends of mean scores. Figure 4-15 shows the trends in age 9 NAEP scores at the 50th percentile (median score trends). Just as for the trends in mean scores, the reading median scores are relatively flat, while math and science show significant improvements over the past 30 years. It is also interesting that most of the improvements in age 9 math and science scores took place FIGURE 4-15 Trends for NAEP scores at the 50th percentile, age 9. SOURCE: Data from National Assessment of Educational Progress.

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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment between 1970 and 1990, and these cohorts have already passed through age 18, a prime year for enlisting in the military. Since there are no significant changes between 1992 and 1999, one would not expect to see significant changes in aptitudes for these late teen youth between 2000 and 2007. Of course, there is no guarantee that improvements in test scores at age 9 will be carried forward to later ages, and in fact, considering the math trends for age 17 students in Figure 4-13, this does not seem to have happened. That is, the sharp gains in age 9 math scores between 1982 and 1990 are not replicated by age 17 gains between 1990 and 1999. Do these aptitude trends differ by gender or race/ethnicity in ways that might affect recruiting targets? With respect to gender, the trends for both male and female age 17 reading scores are generally flat, but females outscore males by more than 10 points. That situation is reversed with math scores, for which age 17 males outscore females by several points, but both groups show gains. Females have gained slightly more than males, and by 1999 the male advantage is only 3 points. If one averages reading and math scores (to approximate the AFQT content), one would find females scoring somewhat higher than males overall. Thus we expect the supply of highly qualified females to be on the same order of magnitude as that for males. Unlike gender, there are significant differences in aptitudes according to race and ethnicity. Generally, white youth have the highest scores, Hispanics second, and black youth have the lowest scores. One interesting development has been a reduction of the achievement gaps between white and both black and Hispanic students, mostly between 1970 and 1990. During this period, black students reduced the age 17 reading gap by about 20 points and the age 17 math gap by about 10 points. Hispanic students reduced the gaps by about 10 points each, but they were not as large to begin with. Since 1990 there has not been much change in the relative scores of each group. There is no consensus among social scientists about the causes of these narrowing achievement gaps; various explanations include school desegregation, compensatory education, and improved socioeconomic status of black families (see Jencks and Phillips, 1998, for a discussion of alternative explanations). The reduced gap means that more minority youth should fall into the highly qualified category, and indeed this is supported by the trends in highly qualified applicants (Figure 4-8b), which show increasing proportions of highly qualified black and Hispanic applicants between 1980 and 1990. The fact that a large gap still exists, however, is a matter of some concern when recruiting shortfalls occur. During times of recruit shortages, there is a tendency to enlist black youth at a higher rate than their proportionate share of the population, thereby making it harder to maintain the social representation goals of the DoD.

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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment Taken together, the trends in youth aptitudes offer no reason to expect changes in reading skills over the next 10 years or so, and there might be increases in math and science skills. Most important, analysis of the NAEP data yields no support for past declines, or a prediction of future declines, in the types of cognitive aptitudes and skills measured by the AFQT. Accordingly, to the extent that there has been some decline in the enlistment of higher-aptitude youth in recent years, we must conclude that it is due to falling propensity of these youth to enlist rather than to their supply in the youth population. With respect to the gains in math and science, it should be noted that there is a well-documented phenomenon called “the Flynn effect,” in which IQ test scores in the general population have risen about 3 points per decade over the past 80 years or so (Flynn, 1998). While experts do not agree on the precise causes for these increases in intellectual ability, it is likely that the rise in NAEP scores is a part of this phenomenon. The practical implication is that each succeeding generation has greater cognitive skill than the previous generation. When IQ and other tests are “renormed” so that the average remains constant (e.g., 100), the renormed scores mask actual improvement in underlying cognitive abilities. Like the NAEP tests, the AFQT is also a standardized, “normed” test. By construction, 50 percent of the youth population on which the test was normalized will score in Categories I to IIIA. To the extent that the improvement in NAEP scores reflects the Flynn effect, it is possible that over time a greater proportion of the youth population will score above the 50th percentile on the AFQT due to improved aptitudes, especially in math and science skills. For this reason, DoD periodically renorms the AFQT. If any future AFQT renorming occurs due to rising aptitudes, DoD should also consider readjusting its recruiting goals in light of the renormed test so that it does not inadvertently increase aptitude targets. Physical and Moral Attributes Population data are more limited with regard to some of the enlistment standards that involve physical and moral attributes. In this section we present and discuss information on four youth attributes that constitute a sizable proportion of military waivers: criminal behavior, drug use, obesity, and asthma. Figure 4-16 shows the rates of illegal drug use among high school seniors from 1979 to 2000. The data are taken from the Monitoring the Future surveys conducted by the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan (adapted from Johnston et al., 2001). All rates of illicit drug use by seniors decline substantially between 1979 and 1992, from just under 40 percent for all types of drugs to about 15 percent. After 1992 that

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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment FIGURE 4-16 Trends in illicit drug use for high school seniors, past 30 days. SOURCE: Data from Monitoring the Future surveys. the rates begin moving upward again, and then they flatten out at about 25 percent starting in 1997, still far lower than their high levels in the late 1970s. By far the dominant drug abused is marijuana, with over 20 percent usage in 2000, compared with only 10 percent for all other drugs. Given the fact that the Services no longer require a moral waiver for preservice marijuana use, it is unlikely that the modest increase in marijuana use after 1992 has had a significant adverse affect on military recruiting. Trends in arrest rates for juveniles, shown in Figure 4-17, likewise seem to suggest little impact on recruiting (U.S. Department of Justice, 1999). These figures are the percentages of offenses known to police that were cleared by arrests of youth under 18. Although there was some increase in both violent and property crimes between 1989 and 1994, both rates began falling in 1995 and have continued to fall through 1998. By 1998, property crime rates were slightly lower than their levels during the 1980s, and violent crime rates were only a couple of percentage points higher (at about 12 percent). The youth population data for medical problems present a somewhat different picture, in that the rates for two common medical problems that require waivers are increasing. Figures 4-18 and 4-19 show youth rates for asthma and obesity, respectively, which can be grounds for physical disqualification if they are serious. If the conditions are viewed as manageable, youth with these conditions can be enlisted with a waiver.

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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment FIGURE 4-17 Trends in arrest rates for persons under 18. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Justice (1999). The rates of asthma doubled between 1980 and 1995, and even though the definition of asthma was changed in 1997 (from a condition of asthma to an asthma attack in the past 12 months), it is believed to represent a trend that continues to rise (Mannino et al., 2002). Likewise, obesity rates for youth ages 12 to 17 have nearly tripled between 1980 and 1999 (National Center for Health Statistics, 1999). In view of these trends, it is perhaps not surprising that the rate of military waivers for physical problems has risen markedly in the past 10 years (see Figure 4-9). If these FIGURE 4-18 Trends in asthma rates for persons under 18. SOURCE: Mannino et al. (2002).

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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment FIGURE 4-19 Trends in obesity rates for youth ages 12–17. SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics (1999). trends continue, they could adversely impact recruiting success or, with waivers, possibly have negative effects on military job performance. SUMMARY Research shows that there is a significant correlation between recruit qualifications (especially education and aptitudes) and military performance, and hence current statutory and policy requirements call for somewhat higher rates of highly qualified recruits than their proportions in the general youth population. While the demand for highly qualified personnel remains strong, the actual enlistment of highly qualified recruits has declined in the past 10 years after reaching all-time highs during the early 1990s. In spite of this decline, the rate of highly qualified youth recruited for the enlisted force continues to be above DoD targets, even in the most difficult recruiting year of 1999. However, if the downward trend continues, there could be shortfalls of recruits with high school diplomas or with higher aptitudes or both over the next 20 years. The potential supply of highly qualified youth in the U.S. population, in terms of education and aptitude, will remain fairly stable over the next 10 years, and there is no reason to expect any declines over the next 20 years. If anything, the proportion of highly qualified youth may increase slightly, particularly if the high school graduation rate remains high while the math aptitude scores continue to rise. If AFQT scores rise to the point at which renorming is contemplated, DoD should also consider lowering aptitude targets to avoid an inadvertent reduction in the supply of high-aptitude youth.

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Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment On the basis of recent population trends, there may be further increases in certain youth population characteristics over the next 20 years that require waivers for accession, particularly physical health conditions. The trends in obesity and asthma are among the most worrisome. Since the supply of highly qualified youth has not declined, but there has been a decline in highly qualified personnel applying for and enlisting in the military, it is quite possible that these declines reflect lower propensity for military service rather than shortages of supply in the youth population. This possibility is examined extensively in subsequent chapters.