Black women are enlisting in the military at far higher rates than are white or Hispanic women, and they now represent nearly a third of all the women in the U.S. armed forces, a new study by the Pew Research Center has found.
The study found that of the 167,000 enlisted women in the military, 31 percent are black, twice their percentage in the civilian female population. Black men represent about 16 percent of the male enlisted population, roughly equal to their proportion in the civilian population.
White women, by comparison, represent 53 percent of women in the military, while accounting for 78 percent of the civilian female population.
The study, which is based on demographic data collected by the Defense Department, confirmed what military experts have known for years: that black women are a crucial source of new recruits for the armed forces, especially for the Army and the Air Force.
There were more than 200,000 female enlisted and commissioned officers in the military in 2010, up from about 55,000 in 1973. Women now represent 14 percent of the enlisted ranks and 16 percent of commissioned officers.
The study, which also drew on surveys conducted by the Pew Center this year with 1,873 veterans, showed that women in the military differ from their male counterparts in several ways.
Military women, for instance, are less likely than military men to be married, 46 percent to 58 percent. But while nearly half of the married women in the military have spouses who are also in the military, just 7 percent of married military men have wives in the forces.