Does the racial makeup of the military roughly reflect US society?

Friday, July 2, 2021
By Lisa Freedland

Compared to the racial makeup of U.S. society, white Americans are somewhat underrepresented among active-duty members of the military while Black Americans are somewhat overrepresented.

In 2019, white people comprised 76% of the U.S. population and 69% of the active-duty military. Black people made up around 13% of the U.S. population and 17% of active-duty military. Hispanics represented around 19% of the U.S. population and 17% of the active-duty military.

Twenty-two percent of active-duty members in 2019 had earned at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 32% of Americans 25 years and older. While high school diplomas were held by 56% of Americans, 76% of the active-duty military had a high school (or GED) diploma.

Despite adding more ways for women to serve, the military does not yet approach the 50/50 gender balance of the population—in 2019 women were 17% of the active-duty force.

This fact brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.
US Census Bureau US Census: 2019
Military One Source Active-duty members: education
Military One Source Active -duty members: gender
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