Largest Share of Army Recruits Come from Rural/Exurban America

Rural and exurban counties provided more than their share of recruits to the U.S. Army in 2008. Rural counties have been disproportionately represented in the military since the beginning of the Iraq War.

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Recruits joining the U.S. Army in 2008 disproportionately came from rural and exurban communities — especially from southern states.

Recruitment rates in rural and exurban counties across the United States were well above the national average. (See chart above.) In rural counties in Southern states, recruitment rates were more than 44% above the national average.

In contrast, the rate of people joining the U.S. Army from Northeastern cities was nearly 40% below the national average.

Rural Nevada counties had the highest Army recruitment rate among the rural counties in the 50 states in 2008, followed by Alabama and Florida. Rural Massachusetts had the lowest rate, followed by the rural portions of North Dakota and Utah.

Since the beginning of the Iraq War, various measures have shown that rural communities have contributed a disproportionate number of men and women to the military. (See Daily Yonder stories here, here and here.)  This new study is based on the hometowns reported by all those who joined the U.S. Army in 2008, data obtained by the National Priorities Project. The NPP’s report on the age, race, income and education of these new soldiers can be found here

Several reasons are offered for the large numbers of young people from rural and exurban communities who join the military. Studies conducted by the Department of Defense have consistently found that bad economies are a boon to military recruitment. When young people have few options — little chance for employment and no easy route to higher education — they are more likely to join the military. Unemployment rates are higher in rural America than in the cities.

In every region of the country, recruitment rates were higher in rural and exurban counties than in urban counties. Only urban counties in the South had recruitment rates above the national average. Cities in the Northeast, Midwest and West all had rates well below the national average.

Alabama sent the highest proportion of men and women to the Army, followed by Nevada, Georgia, Arizona and Texas. To see the rankings of all 50 states, go here.

The chart below lists the states according to the recruitment rate in their rural counties. (The rate is determined by the number of recruits divided by the total number of residents aged 15 to 24 years of age, multiplied by 1,000.)

To see the same information for states and their EXURBAN counties, go here. For URBAN counties, go here.

Tim Murphy/NPP
This chart compares the recruitment rates in the rural counties of all states that have rural counties.

Below are the fifty counties with the highest rates of recruitment. You’ll notice that several of these counties have low populations, so even a small number of recruits will make for a large rate. Also, several of these counties are home to Army bases, such as Cumberland County, North Carolina (Fort Bragg, home of the 82nd Airborne Division); Bell County, Texas(Fort Hood, home of the 1st Cavalry and the 4th Infantry); and Liberty County, Georgia (Fort Stewart, home of the Third Army).

Tim Murphy/NPP
These are the fifty U.S. counties with the highest rates of Army recruitment in 2008.



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