Study: More New Military Recruits Are Age 20 or Older

Wednesday, 23 Apr 2014 01:20 PM

By Melissa Clyne

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More than half of new enlistees in the U.S. Army are age 20 or older, a sharp rise from two decades ago, when older recruits made up just 35 percent of total Army enlistments, according to USA Today and the results of a newly released RAND Corp. study.

The data is good news for the military, according to the study, which found that compared to recruits still in high school, older enlistees score higher on enlistment qualification exams and are more likely to reenlist and be promoted.

About one-sixth of older recruits have an associate’s degree or higher and are more likely to be married, according to the study. But when compared to American youth who did not join the military, according to RAND, older recruits were "significantly less likely to have attended college — a large proportion were high school dropouts who later passed the GED examination before enlisting in the Army. They also had less work experience than the comparison group."

They are also more likely to quit basic training.

Other branches of the military, with the exception of the Marines, saw a similar trend as the Army, according to USA Today, which reports that 52 percent of Navy recruits and half of Air Force enlistees were age 20 or older. Only one-third of Marines are 20 or older.

The economy may play a role in the trend, according to the RAND survey, which interviewed 5,373 recruits at the Army’s five basic training bases in 2008 and 2009.

"A third of those who joined later said there were 'no jobs at home' and about half were of the view that the jobs that were available were 'dead-end jobs,'" according to the results.

In 1992, 65 percent of active-duty Army recruits enlisted during high school or right afterward. In the recent survey, that figure fell to 44 percent. Twenty-one percent enlisted at age 20 or 21; 18 percent between ages 22 and 24; 8 percent between ages 25 and 27; and 9 percent were 28 to 42, according to RAND’s survey. The maximum enlistment age is 35.

A U.S. Army website that publishes recruitment data indicates that the 20.7-year average recruitment age for active duty in 2013 is actually lower than it has been in the past 13 years.

In 2007, the average age of 21.7 and in 2010 it was 21.4, according to the site.

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