Like most people, I’ve always thought of the military as an institution that recruited a disproportionate number from the less well-off. If you don’t have a lot of economic opportunities, it makes sense to join the meritocratic, stable, and well-respected U.S. military.
It’s one of those stories that just seems to ring true.
However, Tim Kane, an economist at the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, has used demographic data from the Department of Defense to analyze enlistees based on the relative wealth of their ZIP codes.
What he found was that enlistees were least likely to come from the poorest quintile of ZIP codes. They were most likely to come from the two richest quintiles.
There are some possible explanations, such as that ZIP codes vary in size, but on the whole it seems like a surprising but legitmate overturning of a common belief.