Some conventional tropes of critics of the American military:
* the military draws mostly or disproportionately from the poorest Americans
* the military draws disproportionately from minority populations
* the military draws disproportionately from the poorly educated
The median household income for recruits is slightly higher than the national median.
The top income quintile provides 22.85% of the recruits; the bottom quintile provides 13.66%. (Suggestion to the critics: switch your argument to an inquiry into why the poorest Americans feel so alienated from their country, they won’t even fight for it.)
Racial statistics are a little harder to pithily summarize, but basically the military is ethnically representative of the country. Blacks, who were over-represented by about 17% a few years ago, are now under-represented by about 4%. Pacific Islanders are the most over-represented group, with a whopping 649% over-representation. Asians are the most under-represented, at 69% of proportionality. Those groups are relatively tiny; the Big Three are all close to 1.0.
Educationally, the military considers a “high quality” recruit to be a high school graduate who scored above the 50% on the Armed Forces standardized test. The proportion of high-quality recruits has gone from 57 percent in 2001 to 64% last year (down slightly from 67% in 2004). Category IV recruits (essentially the “let’s give them a chance but not have high hopes” cohort) are 4.4% of total recruits.
The one piece of conventional wisdom that’s accurate: more recruits come from the South.