A smaller share of Americans currently serve in the U.S. Armed Forces than at any time since the peace-time era between World Wars I and II. During the past decade, as the military has been engaged in the longest period of sustained conflict in the nation’s history, just one-half of one percent of American adults has served on active duty at any given time.1 As the size of the military shrinks, the connections between military personnel and the broader civilian population appear to be growing more distant.
While most Americans today have family members who once served or are currently serving in the armed forces, there is a large generation gap on this measure. In a recent Pew Research Center survey, more than three-quarters (77%) of adults ages 50 and older said they had an immediate family member –a spouse, parent, sibling or child – who had served in the military. For many of these adults, their military family members are likely to have served prior to the phasing out of the military draft in 1973.
However, adults under the age of 50 are much less likely to have family members who served in the military. Some 57% of those ages 30-49 say they have an immediate family member who served. And among those ages 18-29, the share is only one-third.
Read the full report, The Military-Civilian Gap: Fewer Family Connections, on the Pew Social & Demographic Trends Web site.