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Unfit for Service: The Implications of Rising Obesity for U.S. Military Recruitment

John Cawley () and Johanna Maclean

No 16408, NBER Working Papers from National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc

Abstract: Excess body weight or body fat hinders performance of military duties. As a result, the U.S. military has weight-for-height and percent body fat standards for enlistment. This paper estimates the number and percent of military-age civilians who meet, and do not meet, the current active duty enlistment standards for weight and body fat for the four major armed services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps), using data from the full series of National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys that spans 1959-2008. We find that the percent of civilian military-age men and women who satisfy current military enlistment standards for weight-for-height and percent body fat has fallen considerably. This is due to a large increase in the percentage who are both overweight and overfat, which roughly doubled for men and more than tripled for women between 1959-62 and 2007-08. As of 2007-08, 5.7 million men (11.70%) and 16.5 million women (34.65%) of military age exceed the U.S. Army's enlistment standards for weight-for-height and percent body fat. The implications of rising obesity for the U.S. military are especially acute given its recent difficulties in recruiting a sufficient number of new high quality service members in the midst of combat operations overseas.

JEL-codes: H56 I1 J0 J11 J4 N32 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2010-09
Note: CH HE LS PE
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Published as Cawley, John, and Johanna Catherine Maclean. "Unfit for Service: The Implications of Rising Obesity for U.S. Military Recruitment." Health Economics, 2012, 21(11): 1348-1366.

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Related works:
Journal Article: UNFIT FOR SERVICE: THE IMPLICATIONS OF RISING OBESITY FOR US MILITARY RECRUITMENT (2012)
Working Paper: Unfit for Service: The Implications of Rising Obesity for U.S. Military Recruitment (2011) Downloads
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