Posted on January 11, 2024

Army Sees Sharp Decline in White Recruits

Steve Beynon,, January 10, 2024

The Army‘s recruiting of white soldiers has dropped significantly in the last half decade, according to internal data reviewed by, a decline that accounts for much of the service’s historic recruitment slump that has become the subject of increasing concern for Army leadership and Capitol Hill.

The shift in demographics for incoming recruits would be irrelevant to war planners, except it coincides with an overall shortfall of about 10,000 recruits for the Army in 2023 as the service missed its target of 65,000 new soldiers. That deficit is straining the force as it has ramped up its presence in the Pacific and Europe: A smaller Army is taking on a larger mission and training workload than during the peak of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — leading to soldiers being away from home now more than ever.

A total of 44,042 new Army recruits were categorized by the service as white in 2018, but that number has fallen consistently each year to a low of 25,070 in 2023, with a 6% dip from 2022 to 2023 being the most significant drop. No other demographic group has seen such a precipitous decline, though there have been ups and downs from year to year.


In 2018, 56.4% of new recruits were categorized as white. In 2023, that number had fallen to 44%. During that same five-year period, Black recruits have gone from 20% to 24% of the pool, and Hispanic recruits have risen from 17% to 24%, with both groups seeing largely flat recruiting totals but increasing as a percentage of incoming soldiers as white recruiting has fallen.

The rate at which white recruitment has fallen far outpaces nationwide demographic shifts, data experts and Army officials interviewed by noted. They don’t see a single cause to the recruiting problem, but pointed to a confluence of issues for Army recruiting, including partisan scrutiny of the service, a growing obesity epidemic and an underfunded public education system.

Internally, some Army planners are alarmed over the data trends, but see it as a minefield to navigate given increasing partisan attacks against the military for its efforts to recruit and support a diverse force, according to interviews with several service officials.


The updated data provided by the Army did not break down recruit demographics by both race and gender at the same time, meaning that it’s unclear whether the sharp decline is worse among white women or white men, or if the drop was the same for both groups.

Though the recruiting numbers reviewed by point to a stable gender divide for incoming soldiers, 83% male in 2018 versus 82% in 2023, the disproportionate number of men donning the uniform means that a disruption to men seeking work in the U.S. can have a major impact on the military services. That exact dynamic is at play, according to civilian experts, as men have been disappearing from labor market statistics.


Among other problems, opioid overdoses have increasingly pummeled the U.S. every year, with 80,000 deaths in 2021 and about 75% of overdose victims being white and many in their twenties, according to data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation.


Another Army official pointed to partisan attacks from conservative lawmakers and media, which has an overwhelmingly white audience. Those groups have used the military as a partisan cudgel against the Biden administration, lambasting the services for being “woke,” or so preoccupied with liberal values that they have abandoned their warfighting priorities. In most cases, those attacks have zeroed in on the services being more inclusive for women, service members from racial minority groups and LGBTQ+ troops.

“No, the young applicants don’t care about this stuff. But the older people in their life do who have a lot of influence … parents, coaches, pastors,” one Army official told “There’s a level of prestige in parts of conservative America with service that has degraded. Now, you can say you don’t want to join, for whatever reason, or bad-mouth the service without any cultural guilt associated for the first time in those areas.”