The Army in the Marketplace: Recruiting an All-Volunteer Force, by Beth Bailey

Teaching the Article
Exercise 3

Social Science and Marketing Research

The early 1970s were a very difficult time for the U.S. military to transform from a draft-dependent to an all-volunteer force. For example, while the army anticipated it would need well more than 200,000 new recruits each year, a far smaller number of young men said they were inclined to enlist. Some influential members of the military argued that it was necessary to understand young Americans’ attitudes toward military service. In order to best focus military recruiting efforts, they claimed, it was important to identify the characteristics of those young people who were most likely to join—and of those least likely to join. For that information, the military turned to state-of-the-art social science research.

In 1971, the Department of Defense contracted Market Facts, Inc., a Chicago-based research firm, to conduct semiannual surveys of young men to gain insight into their attitudes toward employment in general and toward military service in particular. By 1975, that semiannual study had become the Youth Attitude Tracking Study (yats), a relatively small-scale standardized telephone survey of young men between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one. Over the years, that study grew larger and more sophisticated. Young women were included for the first time in 1980. In 1999, its final year, the yats was based on computer-assisted telephone interviews of more than 10,000 young men and women between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four.

Over the years, those surveys have generated a great deal of data about American youth and their military propensity (inclination to join). The yats data allow us to compare the answers of women and men, or of Hispanics, whites, and blacks, or of young people in the 1970s and young people in the recent past. It is important to remember, however, that people made choices when they wrote the survey questions. In looking at the documents below, we can learn much not only from the data the survey generated, but also from the questions the researchers chose to include and from the ways they analyzed young people’s answers.



A. Excerpt from Youth Attitude Tracking Survey, 1975 (pdf). Prepared for the Department of Defense by Market Facts, Inc. (Job No. 9221 OMB# 22-R-0339).

B. Excerpt from “The Volunteer Soldier: His Needs, Attitudes, and Expectations,” 1972. Study prepared by Scott M. Cunningham, Cinecom Corp., for the Department of the Army.

C. Defense Manpower Data Center, Youth Attitude Tracking Study, 1999 Propensity and Advertising Report (pdf). DMDC Report No. 2000-019.

  1. Figure 4-1. Trends in Common Reasons for Entering Military Service Among Young Men.
  2. Figure 4-2. Trends in Common Reasons for Entering Military Service Among Young Women.
  3. Table 4-2. Main Reasons for Joining Among Young Men and Women by Race/Ethnicity.