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The Consequences of Rising Youth Obesity for U.S. Military Academy Admissions

John Cawley () and Johanna Maclean

Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, 2013, vol. 35, issue 1, 32-51

Abstract: This study estimates the percentage of the U.S. age-eligible population that exceeds weight-for-height admission standards of U.S. Military Academies, the undergraduate institutions that train officers for the U.S. Armed Forces. We analyze data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, and document that the fraction of age-eligible civilians exceeding the weight and fat standards for admission has more than doubled for men and nearly quadrupled for women between 1959 and 2010. Among women, exceeding these standards is roughly 13 percentage points more likely among African-Americans than whites, representing a challenge to the military, which strives for a racially-diverse officer corps. Simulations indicate that further increases in weight and fat of just 1% would result in a 16.5% increase for men, and 10.9% increase for women, in ineligibility for admission to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Overall, these results indicate that the current prevalence of and future trends in obesity threaten to reduce the quality of the officer corps, and thereby decrease U.S. military readiness. Copyright 2013, Oxford University Press.

Date: 2013
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Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy is currently edited by Timothy Park, Tomislav Vukina and Ian Sheldon

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