WaPo, Recruiting and the Ombusdman Posted by: McQ
on Tuesday, December 27, 2005
The Washington Post's ombudsman, Deborah Howell, has looked into a story by Ann Scott Tyson, described by Howell as a "respected military reporter just back from Iraq" who wrote about military recruiting on Nov. 4th. Tyson's findings were "demographic data show that the military is leaning heavily for recruits on economically depressed rural areas where youths' need for jobs may outweigh the risks of going to war."
While the data was correct, the inferences and interpretation were not Or said another way, the poor are fighting in Iraq.
The data cited is from the Pentagon by way of National Priorities Project (NPP)which is described by Howell as "a liberal-leaning think tank that questions the war in Iraq."
So again, to reinterate Tyson's conclusion in her Nov. 4th article and based on the NPP data:
The story said that more than 44 percent of military recruits come from rural areas, most from the South and West. "Many . . . are financially strapped, with nearly half coming from lower-middle-class to poor households, according to new Pentagon data based on Zip codes and census estimates of mean household income."
To Howell's credit, she goes beyond one source (NPP) and checks the data and analysis with many sources.
In looking at the story, I talked to Curt Gilroy, who, as director of accession policy for the secretary of defense, has oversight of all active-duty recruiting; Tim Kane, a Heritage researcher; Betty Maxfield, demographer of the Army; Bruce Orvis, director of the Manpower and Training Program at the Rand Corp.'s Arroyo Center, and Robert Brandewei, director of the Defense Manpower Data Center in Monterey, Calif.
All concluded that while the data was correct, the infereneces and interpretation were not.
Tim Kane of the Heritage Foundation said:
Kane agreed that a higher proportion of recruits come from rural areas and the South, which is historically true. "But the key word is proportion. The data in the Post article are accurate, but the inferences are not," he said. "The percentage of recruits coming from poorer areas has declined every year since 2001 and the percentage coming from richer areas has increased."
We found that recruits tend to come from middle-class areas, with disproportionately fewer from low-income areas. Overall, the income distribution of military enlistees is more similar to than different from the income distribution of the general population.
Income was compared on a household basis, not an individual basis, meaning that recruits’ income was defined by their household of origin. This approach was used because youth are rarely primary income earners, and many earn no income at all until after high school graduation. However, the household income of their area of origin does serve as a basis for assessing whether the military recruits come from disproportionatly poor backgrounds
And their finding was fewer poor and more "rich" have been joining since 9/11. They flatly state that proportionally, it seems all economic levels are properly represented based on who's been recruited:
The plain fact is that the income distribution of recruits is nearly identical to the income distribution of the general population ages 18–24.
If you read the Heritage Foundation report, you will see that high school grads are overrepresented in the military as are blacks, but both are historically consistent trends based on requirements and opportunity. You'll also find whites properly represented (by percentage) and Asian-Americans underrepresented (by precentage). Again, both are historically consistent trends.
Of course the Post editor sees the story as just fine:
Post National Editor Michael Abramowitz said, "Ann set out to tell the story of what kind of young people are joining today's military. Obviously the armed services draw from a range of demographic, income and ethnic groups. The Pentagon's own numbers indicate that that the military is drawing disproportionally from rural and southern communities, and from families with slightly lower incomes than the population in general.
"The numbers also show a close correlation between the unemployment rate and recruiting. These are the phenomena that Ann accurately described in her story. While we did note some trends, such as the growth in wealthier recruits, we probably could have done a better job highlighting some of the nuances in recruiting patterns and providing more context. But the overall thrust of the story still seems accurate and sound to us."
However Howell, to her credit, disagrees (gently, of course) and makes the following point which both Abromowitz and Tyson need to heed in any future articles of this sort:
My bottom line on polls and surveys, no matter what kind: Look for the widest context. Ask as many experts as possible what the numbers mean. Numbers can be right but not tell the full story, and that's the case with the article on recruiting.
Agreed ... if your intent is telling the whole story.
If it's not, well, read the Nov. 4th story and decide for yourself.
It seems that the right win is a little touchy when it comes to class issues. It seems a little bizzare to be proud that affirmative action works so well that even talented white kids from suburbia with futures get shot up now.
Does it really matter who gets the *opportunity*?
BTW: There is still not one son or daughter of a member of Congress in Iraq. I’ll bet the top 5% of incomes are under represented as well. Hispanics are overrepresented as are males. There are lots of stats here. If you lay them all down end to end they still don’t make a point.
Well, Cindy...hate to burst your little bubble, but I already know that the son of Armed Services Committee Chair Representative Duncan Hunter, has already served two rotations in Iraq with the USMC, and fought in Fallujah.
So did the sons of Representative Joe Wilson (R) South Carolina, and Senator Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota). Ditto for the son of Senator Kit Bond. Oops, and Rep. Tim Akin of Missouri.
Additionally, John Ashcroft’s son served in the Navy in the Persion Gulf.
Joe Biden and Mark Kennedy also had sons in the military as of 2004, though I don’t know if they served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Next time, Cindy, do a little fact-checking before you regurgitate whatever you hear from the nitwits at MoveOn.
And think carefully about your assumptions about the war and the troops fighting it. You’re getting your information from some awfully ill-informed people.
Sigh. Wouldn’t it be great if liberals (like Cindy) who have been getting all of their [indoctrination] information from the liberal cocoon and who wander in to qando looking for an opportunity to take a shot at a non-believer in order to boost their liberalpride would listen up and learn something? Not the case. Tearing the liberal teat from their mouths is too terrible for them to contemplate. Cindy will just mutter: “Oh, those damned wingers and their detail-orientation. My principle was right on; [“forged, but true”] so a few mis-guided idiots served their country. Probably in safe, warm remf posts far from any danger. I have read the [“chickenhawk”] story too many times [in the NYT, WaPo, AP, Reuters, BBC, etc.] to not know that it is true.” Will she check her past sources for the statement that no member of Congress children served? No. Try to determine why she has made an ass of herself? No. That is the mystery of liberalism. That is why it is a religion.