Shared Sacrifice? An Inquiry into the Willingness to Perform Compulsory Military Service

Esteban G. Dalehite, Liucija Birskyte


The recurring debate over mandatory military service has been revived as the U.S. all-voluntary military force is stretched to its limits in the war on terrorism. With the purpose of shedding light on preferences for compulsory military service, this article presents an inquiry into the characteristics of individuals that are more willing to perform compulsory military service. Using a national data set on high school students, one of the main insights derived from this study is that the characteristics of high school students willing to perform compulsory military service agree substantially with known characteristics of military recruits. In other words, high school students favour compulsory service in the military if they already have a predisposition to enter the military voluntarily. The research shows that the person who may be more willing to perform compulsory military service has the following characteristics: Parent in the military, low socio-economic status, conservative, male, and from the Mountain, Pacific, and Southern regions of the United States. Regional variations in willingness to perform compulsory service appear, in part, to capture regional variations in religiosity.

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JMSS is a publication of the Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

JMSS gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council.