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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

'Be all you can be' works for black soldiers

Enlisting in the Army raises earnings for blacks, writes Jeff Murray, citing a new study.

Army Service in the All-Volunteer Era by West Point's Kyle Greenberg draws on 30 years of data. It compares applicants who scored just above or just below two cutoff points (31 and 50) on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT). Most were young men from families with a lower-than-average income.

For all recruits, enlisting increases average earnings over the next 19 years, but the effects fade after 11 years, the study found. Over the long term, those who served aren't more likely to be employed, but they are more likely to have attended college. Army service "had no impact on mortality," but veterans were more likely to receive disability payments.

The upward mobility effect was weak for whites, very strong for blacks. Blacks enlistees earned $5,500 more annually at the lower cutoff, $15,000 more at the higher cutoff 11 to 19 years later. They were more likely marry and own their own homes.

Blacks served longer than whites, Murray notes. That seems to have paid off. Nineteen years after taking the AFQT, they were more likely to work in "high-paying industries and/or public service jobs."

Some high schools -- typically those with lots of low-income, non-white students -- place all students in JROTC classes, reports the New York Times. Principals say students learn leadership and teamwork -- and the school doesn't have to pay for a PE teacher.

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