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Abstract

The enlistment of black women in the U.S. military has been a persistent and growing demographic trend over the past three decades. Black women now constitute nearly one-third of all women in the U.S. military. At around 30 percent, this number is twice their representation in the civilian population and higher than that of men or women of any other racial or ethnic group. This article analyzes the changing economic, social, and political landscape in the United States to identify what has motivated this cohort to enlist at such high rates. Based on this analysis, a case can be made that welfare reform, compounded by the already dramatic rise in female-headed households and the financial crisis of 2008, have perpetuated high enlistment for black women as their reliance on the military for support has increased. This article identifies the special needs of this group and suggests policy initiatives that take full advantage of the social engineering opportunities in the military. Recommendations are made about ways to help these women reach their full potential during their service and as they transition back into civilian life.

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