A recent study of Air Force eligibility requirements claims its high standards are a hinderance to diversity, but there’s more to the story.
The study was issued in late August by the Rand Corp. think tank, a research organization that describes itself as a “nonpartisan organization” that “develops solutions to public policy challenges”.
Researchers note the “Department of the Air Force (DAF) has prioritized growing and maintaining a diverse workforce across all pay grades” but its notoriously rigorous standards exclude much of the population.
“A large segment of the U.S. population is not eligible to enlist as an airman or be commissioned as an officer, and the impact of eligibility criteria is not uniform across gender and race and ethnicity,” the report states.
“Because most military personnel begin their careers at the entry-level pay grade and positions are filled by promoting from within, achieving diversity at the point of accession is critical to growing and maintaining a diverse workforce across all pay grades.”
The Air Force maintains high standards for body mass index, height, education level, and aptitude requirements for its higher ranking officers, as well as screening for health, citizenship, criminal records, and visible tattoos.
Even enlistees are subject to scrutiny. The Air Force requires enlistees to have at least a high school diploma or GED, have no more than two dependents and not be a single parent, and have no felony convictions.
Percentages Tell a Consistent Tale
The researchers compared the population of 17-39 year olds in the United States to the percentage that are eligible to join the Air Force.
They found that while black males make up 7% of that population, 3.6% are eligible to join.
The roughly 50% eligibility rate holds true for most demographics. For example, Hispanic males make up 12% of the age range, with 7% meeting the standards.
Women do slightly better, with black women making up 7% of the age range and 5% eligible; Hispanic women account for about 10% of the group with 8% eligible.
For an organization with such high standards, the eligibility across demographics is impressive.
Still, the Air Force has slightly lowered some enlistment standards, including allowing airmen with higher body fat percentages and those with visible tattoos.