« Does the free man bend his knee to man or god? | Gene Expression Front Page | Family values & Cloning »
January 14, 2003

The Truth is too easy an answer

We all knew Charlie Rangel's race angle for reinstating the draft (ie; more blacks will die, while a draft would equalize the risk) was suspect, and the Pentagon report that just came out confirms it (blacks concentrate in administrative and support positions). But it doesn't matter-Rangel will still repeat the same mantra.

Update: This article over at NRO is pretty good. Seems that blacks are somewhat overrepresented, but not to the magnitude that one would assume from the rhetoric.

Posted by razib at 01:01 PM

Razib, I am actually a little surprised to find that blacks make up 15% of combat forces, according to the referenced article, which means that yes, they are overrepped in hazardous positions, and accounted for 17% of combat deaths in Gulf War I.

I wonder what the %age of blacks in special forces units, elite units, is. I would imagine that the prominence of such units has only grown in the years since Gulf War I.

Posted by: Diana at January 14, 2003 01:31 PM

the overrepresentation is less prominent if you take into account the fact that more blacks are young.

Posted by: razib at January 14, 2003 02:15 PM

Razib, No but we are talking about _males_ Razib. Only 6% of the combat-age pop'n is made up of black males, and if they are 17% of combat deaths then Rangel has a point.

Posted by: Diana at January 14, 2003 05:40 PM

does he mean the draft to include women?

Posted by: razib at January 14, 2003 05:43 PM

Participation in the army is entirely voluntary, therefore if proportionately more blacks than whites join its ranks, it was entirely their decision. Why does Rangel not consider the wishes of those he is trying to "save" if that really is his intention? People know the risk of dying when they join an active military force.

Posted by: Lollia at January 14, 2003 06:22 PM


Because liberals of Rangel's stripe need their constituency to be victims, not rational, self-motivated actors.

Posted by: Whackadoodle at January 14, 2003 06:38 PM

Razib I don't know if Rangel means to include women--I think I heard he does--but this is a bullshit feint anyway. My point is that if only 6% of draft age men were black during Gulf War I and blacks were 17% of combat-related deaths, aren't they overrepped?

Oh sorry, I used profanity, you will ban my ISP. What shall I do. Goodbye duende.

Posted by: Diana at January 14, 2003 07:45 PM

diana, where does the 6% number come from for the gulf war? the NRO article says 13.1% were of the correct age group during Vietnam, are you using half of that?

i guess you are strictly correct, but we should say that men are taking the risks, since that is the biggest factor.

Posted by: razib at January 14, 2003 08:35 PM

I was calculating half of 12%. OK, make it 14% for draft age ppl. That's 7%. So they are overrepped by 2-something, not 3.

That's still quite a lot, methinks. Rangel has a point. I don't like him, but he has a point.

Posted by: Diana at January 14, 2003 08:55 PM

Yeah, well, why doesn't Rangel talk about the race of those who work for ALL agencies of the federal government? The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is over 60% black!

Posted by: Roger Chaillet at January 14, 2003 09:19 PM

Diana, I'm confused about your point about black overrepresentation in the combat death ratio. You halve the 14% population share of blacks to come up with the 6-7% figure, which you then compare to the combat death ratio of ~17%. But shouldn't you also halve the population share of the non-black population as well? After all, isn't the vast majority of the non-black proportion of the military also male? And wouldn't that remove most of the overrepresentation in the combat death ratio? As I said, I'm confused here.

Posted by: Patrick at January 15, 2003 03:57 AM

I think black women are far overrepresented in the military compared to nonblack women.
So few people died in the Gulf War, that just about any ratio in deaths(b/w) could have come from randomness of what bomb hit where.

Posted by: Rob at January 15, 2003 06:14 AM


The proportion of black military-age males in the US is approx. 6-7%. At the most. I get that by halving their proportion of the population 14% (draft-age people). In fact, it may be less, but let's talk upper limits here. Black combat-related deaths in Gulf I were 17%. I don't see what is so difficult to understand here.

I agree with Rob that there were hardly any combat-related deaths in Gulf I and that issue had occurred to me.

The overwhelming majority of Spec Forces guys are white (I think Hispanics are overrepped there: anyone have any stats?)

Go into any Hispanic home and you see a picture of the son in the Marines on the mantelpiece; at least, it used to be so.

Posted by: Diana at January 15, 2003 08:04 AM

Diane, my confusion lies in why you would halve the black population but not the white. The proportion of non-Hispanic whites in the US is, as far as I know, ~75%. That would mean, by your reasoning, that white males in the military should therefore be ~37% of the total enlisted (i.e., half of the white proportion of the population as a whole), and proportionate casualites should not exceed that number. It seems to me that if you did the same for every ethnic group and summed up their proportionate casualty levels, you'd end up with a total of 50%, simply because you divide by half when you shouldn't.

Posted by: Patrick at January 15, 2003 09:29 AM

Rob, you're right about the randomness factor. Of the 147 US dead in the Gulf War, I believe 128 died in the SCUD attack on the barracks at Dharan. I also believe that many of the casualties there were Reserves and National Guard, which would skew things, though in what direction I'm not sure.
I agree that we can't draw too many conclusions about casualty figures from Gulf War I. And even less so from Afghanistan.
And let's hope the trend continues for Gulf War II.

Posted by: Patrick at January 15, 2003 09:32 AM

I'll stand up for your right to occasionally curse. Girl Power!

Posted by: duende at January 15, 2003 09:46 AM

Thanks Duende.

Patrick I see your point. I did it again, check my arithmetic. (It's very very rough)

Look up the CIA factbook:

which tells us that 2,053,179 males reached draft age in 2002

I multiplied that by 12 since 18 to 30 is "draft age" = nearly 25M

I took half of 36M blacks = 18M, and if the black median age is 40, then half that is below 40 = 9M. From there I somewhat arbitrarily divided that into half and took most of the upper half as "draft-age" = 4M.

4M/25M = which comes to about 18%


Posted by: Diana at January 15, 2003 11:16 AM

Diana, first let me apologize for calling you "Diane". At least I got your name right in my first post.
Yes, the calculation is "rough", but I see nothing unreasonable about the estimates you made. So, if I understand your post correctly, it looks like casualty rates are about what one would expect from population proportions. Hmmmm.
However, I think Rob's point remains decisive. With such small casualty figures, it's hard to draw conclusions. Let's hope it gets harder all the time!

Posted by: Patrick at January 15, 2003 01:47 PM

Patrick, I'm both. I like to be mysterious. Yes, according to my very rough calculations blacks are about adequately represented in Gulf War I casualty figures, which are not representative of anything at all.

See, that's how we resolve things at GNXP. Through reason, not insults.

Posted by: Diana at January 15, 2003 05:29 PM