71% of young Americans are ineligible for the military

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If you're a young person looking to join the military to advance your life, the odds of your getting in are now against you.


A new report from Mission: Readiness, an advocacy group of retired service members, says that 71% of 17-24 year-old Americans are ineligible for the military.

There are a variety of reasons why:

  • Nearly one in three young adults nationwide weigh more than the military's accepted standard, which, for a 5'10" 18-year-old male, is 174 pounds
  • One in six hasn't graduated high school
  • One in ten has a criminal record that would prevent them from qualifying

The barriers are even higher for people of color, the report says: African-Americans are 18% less likely to graduate from high school on average, 41% more likely to be obese, and 29% more likely to have an arrest record than youth who are white, the report says.

"The nation needs each generation to be successful, productive and healthy to remain competitive and strong," it says. "However, as military leaders look ahead to the coming years, they are increasingly concerned that there are not enough qualified candidates to defend our nation."

Mission:Readiness has looked at academic literature about how the situation can be addressed, and has come up with the same solutions as everyone else: early childhoood intervention.

"Preschools in several different areas across the country that served nutritious food, increased physical activity among children and coached parents on these topics saw significant declines in child obesity," they write.

Meanwhile, "children left out of the Chicago Child-Parent Centers program were 70% more likely than participants to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18."


The group calls on federal policymakers to support Preschool Development Grants, which give funds to states looking to establish or expand high-quality early learning programs.

They also ask that the federal Maternal, Infant, Early Childhood and Home Visiting programs, which funds frequent visits from qualified administrators to teach parents how to improve their family's health and provide better opportunities for their children.


Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.