Armed Forces & Society
Throughout the history of the United States, the South has had higher levels of military service than other regions of the country. Scholars regularly refer to this phenomenon as a “Southern military tradition.” The reasons behind this overrepresentation are not completely understood. Do Southern sociodemographic characteristics make it a preferred recruiting area relative to other regions in the United States, or is there something distinctive about the cultural legacy of Southern history that encourages and supports military service? Using a unique data set that includes county- level active duty army enlistments and sociodemographic information, we show that Southern counties have significantly higher enlistment rates than counties in the Northeast and Midwest. These differences disappear when sociodemographic factors, such as fewer college graduates and a prominent presence of Evangelical Christians, are taken into account. These findings suggest that population characteristics may be a stronger driver of current regional disparities in military service than an inherited Southern military tradition.
Maley, Adam J. and Daniel N. Hawkins. 2018. “The Southern Military Tradition: Sociodemographic Factors, Cultural Legacy, and United States Army Enlistments.” Armed Forces & Society 44: 195-218.