Title page for ETD etd-71198-13614

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Light, Patricia Danette Jr.
Author's Email Address brenda.husser@vt.edu
URN etd-71198-13614
Title Marching Upward: The Role of the Military in Social Stratification and Mobility in American Society
Degree PhD
Department Sociology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Bailey, Carol A.
de Wolf, Peggy L.
Edwards, John N.
Fuhrman, Ellsworth R.
Yin, Ray
Bryant, Clifton D. Committee Chair
  • military sociology
  • social stratification
  • social mobility
  • race and ethnicity
Date of Defense 1998-05-01
Availability unrestricted
This study addresses the extent to which participation in the military affects

subsequent status attainment and mobility in America. The purpose of this research

was to conduct a comprehensive examination of existing empirical research resulting in

a synthesis of findings and establishing a concise summary of the state of the literature

on this topic.

The study is limited to the examination of existing research on male veterans in

the years between 1950 and the present. Findings from sixty-four articles and seven

books are presented. The background characteristics of servicemen, the promotion

and retention of servicemen, and the post-service earnings and education of

servicemen, in the era of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the All-Volunteer Force are

discussed. When possible, comparisons are made between servicemen and their

civilian counterparts, as well as between Anglos and African Americans.

Findings indicate that men serving in the military prior to Vietnam were from

somewhat higher socio-economic and educational backgrounds. The background

characteristics of Anglo veterans of Vietnam and the AVF were homogenous to their

civilian counterparts. Black veterans of the period from the war in Vietnam through the

present have slightly higher levels of education and income prior to service as

compared to their civilian counterparts.

Research on promotion, retention, and military occupational assignments

demonstrate that blacks are more likely to enlist and re-enlist than are Anglos.

Promotions are currently achieved at approximately the same rate regardless of race.

However, throughout the period examined, blacks are more likely to be trained in

military occupational specialties considered to be less transferable to the civilian


Findings on post-service attainment are limited to the examination of income,

earnings, and education. Military service resulted in higher levels of income, earnings,

and education for all veterans serving since 1950, with the notable exception of Anglo

Vietnam veterans. In other words, as compared to their civilian counterparts, veterans

had significantly higher incomes, earnings, and educational levels post-service.

Explanations for the association between military service and social mobility, including

fluctuations in enlistment standards and educational benefits during the period under

investigation, are presented.

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