Military Enlistment of Hispanic Youth: Obstacles and Opportunities

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RAND Corp.

Hispanics' underrepresentation in the U.S. military - given the minority group's high interest in armed forces enlistment - can be traced in part to how they spent their youth, according to this study. The RAND Corp.'s National Defense Research Institute found that the Hispanics' underrepresentation stems mostly from failure to meet eligibility requirements, which stemmed from their lower high school graduation rates and higher obesity rates compared with other populations. 

The study showed that, despite comprising 17 percent of the total 18- to 40-year-old population, Hispanics account for 11.4 percent of Army enlistments and 15 percent of Navy enlistments. The researchers cited 2000 Census data showing that only 51 percent of Hispanic males and 64 percent of Hispanic females ages 17 to 21 have high school diplomas, compared with 84 and 88 percent of whites and 68 and 78 percent of blacks, respectively.

But many Hispanic applicants who graduated from high school cannot enlist in the military because they are overweight. Seventy-one to 88 percent of Hispanic males and 49 to 71 percent of Hispanic females met the varying weight standards of the branch of the military to which they were applying, compared with 79 to 91 percent of white males and 63 to 82 percent of white females. Free, 224 pages. (703) 413-1100,