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February 1999
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Military Steps Up Drive to Recruit Latinos

by Harold Jordan
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Military recruiters have stepped up their attempts to get Latinos to join the services. This drive is partly a response to what has been a difficult recruiting climate. It is also based on recognition by recruiters that Latinos are a fast growing segment of the youth population, but have long been considered "under-represented" in the military.

In this climate, recruiting officials are placing a greater emphasis on targeted recruitment in specific markets - a sort of niche recruiting - as opposed to general recruitment and advertising.

Latino Youth and Recruiting Challenges

Recruiters have long wanted to increase Latino enlistment rates. Latinos make up 6.3% of today's military - 7% of enlisted ranks; only 3% of officers - but 11% of the population of 18-44 year olds.

Among young people ages 18-24, the prime recruiting market, Latinos make up 14.3% of the nation's youth, but only about 10% of new recruits.

According to Census Bureau projections, Latinos are expected to make up 18% of 12-44-year-olds by the year 2020. This means that the services would have to triple the proportion of Latinos in order to match the civilian population.

For the Pentagon this is more than just a numbers game. Current recruiting difficulties have caused military officials to place an even greater emphasis on expanding Latino enlistment.

Young people have been less interested in the military since the Gulf War. This is especially true for Black youth and for young people who hold high school diplomas. The Pentagon's annual survey of high school youth, the Youth Attitude Tracking Survey, documents this decline.

Military officials argue that their youth surveys indicate that Latino youth are less hostile to joining the military than Black youth.

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Harold Jordan coordinates the American Friends Service Committee's National Youth and Militarism Program.
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