Largest Share of Army Recruits Come from Rural/Exurban America

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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.


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.