February 2, 2012

Large Military-Civilian Gap Among Young Americans

39%

Just under four-in-ten (39%) adults under the age of 40 say they have an immediate family member who served in the military. By contrast, 60% of veterans younger than 40 have an an immediate family member who served.

A smaller share of Americans currently serve in the U.S. Armed Forces than at any time since the era between World Wars I and II. During the past decade, as the military has been engaged in the longest period of sustained conflict in the nation’s history, just one-half of one percent of American adults has served on active duty at any given time. As the size of the military shrinks, the connections between military personnel and the broader civilian population appear to be growing more distant.

This military-civilian gap is much wider among younger respondents. Among those under 40, just 39% of respondents have an immediate family member who served in the military compared to 60% of veterans in the same age group. Among those ages 40 and older, the gap is much smaller: 81% of veterans (compared with 74% of all adults in this age group) have an immediate family member who served in the military.

This suggests that the gap between veterans and the general public in the share that has family connections to the military may be a relatively new phenomenon, with the shrinking size of the military in recent decades resulting in fewer connections between the military and the civilian world. Read More