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FMG Researchers Publish Research Evaluating the Validity of Key U.S. DoD Personnel Forecasting Measures

behavioral research / military research / survey research / youth / news

Arlington, Virginia – January 21, 2014 –Last week, past and present Fors Marsh Groupers Mike Ford, Jen Gibson, Brian Griepentrog, and Sean Marsh received word that their research entitled ‘Reassessing the Association of Intent to Join the Military and Subsequent Enlistment’ was accepted for publication in the Military Psychology. This is a great accomplishment for our research team and a significant contribution to the research literature.

As many of you that follow the Fors Marsh Group blog know, intent to join the military, or propensity, is one of the primary ways the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) forecasts the military recruiting supply. Although propensity has consistently been found to be the single best predictor of actual enlistment decisions over the past few decades (1), some in the recruiting community began to speculate that major events since the last study in 1994 (for example, military involvement in Eastern Europe and the middle east, the events of September 11, 2001, changing national demographics, the economic recessions in 2001 and 2008) may have influenced the propensity-enlistment relationship. Therefore, two of the primary goals of the recently published study included: 1) Reassessing the validity of measures of propensity in predicting subsequent enlistment in light of major events since 1994. 2) Highlighting other variables that moderate the relationship between propensity and enlistment and help explain instances where individuals intend to enlist but ultimately do not enlist or where individuals do not intend to enlist but later decide to do so.

We reassessed the validity of measures of propensity from the Youth Attitude Tracking Surveys and Youth Polls conducted from 1995 through 2003 and enlistment records maintained by the DoD. Results from our study demonstrated that propensity has remained a stable predictor of enlistment overtime as well as its most valid predictor. For example, 26.4 percent of individuals who said they definitely planned to join the military across this time period were found to have later enlisted. This result is very compelling in light of research suggesting that approximately three quarters (74%) of American youth are not qualified to join the military. Our analysis also pointed to several interesting moderators of the propensity-enlistment relationship regarding time, location, and race/ethnicity that help identify situations where propensed youth are less likely and nonpropensed youth are more likely to join the military. By understanding these boundaries, recruiting commands can better allocate resources to recruit individuals whose values and interests fit with the military.

For more information on this research, please contact any of the authors or check the upcoming editions of Military Psychology at http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/mil/ .

  1. 1) Bachman, Segal, Freedman-Doan, & O’Malley, 2000; Orvis & Asch, 2001; Orvis, Sastry, & MacDonald, 1996; Stone, Turner, & Wiggins, 1994
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