27 Intriguing US Military Racial Demographics

The United States prides itself on being a “melting pot” for different races, cultures, and ethnic backgrounds. Is the same true for the US military that helps to defend the country against terrorism, war, or the threats of war?

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The total number of US military personnel is over 3.6 million strong, including DoD Active Duty military personnel.

US Miliary Racial Demographics


There are over 1 million military personnel who are on active duty right now. Out of those soldiers, with more than half serving in the US Army, about one-third of them self-identify as a racial minority. The total number of active duty personnel with a racial or ethnic minority status was just over 420,000. This means that the Caucasian population demographic is slightly over-represented in the active duty military right now.

  • Only 10.5% of officers and 28.2% of enlisted personnel were of a racial or ethnic minority in 1995. In 2012, 21.9% of officers and 31.6% of enlisted personnel were of a minority status.
  • Hispanics are not listed as a racial minority according to official US military statistics.
  • 11.3%. That’s the total percentage of the active duty force that is of a Hispanic ethnicity.
  • The state of California is the most popular destination for active duty military personnel to serve.
  • Outside of the US, East Asia and Europe are the two most common station points for the US military.
  • 1 in 4 active duty officers are above the age of 41. The average age for an officer, however, is 34 and the average age for enlisted personnel is 27.
  • Over 82% of US military officers have at least a bachelor’s degree. Less than 6% of enlisted personnel have one.
  • African-American recruit ratios are at 1.04 per 1 person, just under the 1.05 per 1 person in the Caucasian demographic.
  • The most represented racial minority in the US Military: American Indians/Alaska Natives/First Nations people at 2.96 per person.
  • Hispanics have a 0.66 recruitment ratio.
  • People from the Northeast United States are the least likely to serve in the military. The Southcentral United States sees the highest recruitment rates.

Although racial minorities are slightly under-represented in the US military when compared to the general population, that is because the official stats don’t take into account the Hispanic demographic. When they are included in the official statistics and then manually altered, the US military is almost right in line with the total population base of the country with just a percentage point here or there being off. That’s an encouraging sign of change that has occurred over the last 20 years and has the racial demographics in the country continue to shift, hopefully the active duty US military personnel will continue to see similar shifts in their demographics as well.

What About The Selective Reserve Personnel?

  • About 1 in 4 Selective Reserve personnel for the US military self-identify as being of a minority status.
  • There are just over 25,000 minority officers in the Selective Reserve and a little over 182,000 enlisted personnel.
  • The ratio of minority officers to enlisted personnel: 1:7.9.
  • Minority officers in the Selected Reserve have increased by 5% since 1995, but the amount of minority enlisted personnel has decreased over the same time period.
  • 10.1%. That’s the percentage of the Selected Reserve that self-identifies as being Hispanic. There is no breakdown as to the percentage of officers or enlisted personnel in this category.
  • Women compose about 18% of the Selected Reserve force.

The trends in active duty personnel are not being reflected in the Selective Reserve. Although there have been double digit gains in minority representation in the active duty officers and enlisted personnel, there have actually been losses in some demographics in the Selected Reserve. These members have an active status and are required to complete a specific number of drill periods every year. While on training duty, they are temporarily transitioned to full active duty status. What does this mean for the racial demographics? It means more racial minorities are looking to the US military as a full time career instead of as a part time option.

How Do The Racial Minorities Break Down?

  • 21.5% of those who are active duty in the US Army are African-American.
  • Only 11.1% of active duty personnel in the US Marines are African-American.
  • The US Navy is the only branch of the military where other racial minorities outnumber the total amount of African-Americans that are currently serving.
  • The Coast Guard is the least popular destination for African-Americans [6.1%], but the US Marines is the least popular destination for minorities in general [16.3% of the fighting force].
  • While 58% of Americans 18-39 years old are white, 64% of the Army’s enlisted men and women are.
  • 8%. That’s the percentage of 25-54 year-olds with bachelor’s degrees that are African-American.
  • The only category where Caucasians are under-represented: US Army officers.
  • The Heritage Foundation found that only 11% of enlisted military recruits in 2007 came from the poorest 20% of American households.
  • The racial demographic that is the most under-represented in the US military: people who are a combination of two races at 0.37 per person.

There’s this idea that many kids enter the US military simply because they don’t have any other career options. According to these statistics, that is far from the truth. Only about 1 in every 10 recruits comes from the poorest of the poor homes where career options are vastly limited. This means that a vast majority of the US fighting forces are choosing to serve and protect. It also means that a vast majority of the racial minority demographics are choosing to serve instead of feeling forced to serve. That could be another reason why the reserves are under-represented in the minority demographics.

Demographics of Military Families