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Monday, November 24, 2003

Red State Death Rate in Iraq

Did everyone see the recent story about how rural soldiers are dying disproportionately in Iraq? It was in The Washington Post on the 16th, but also appeared in other local papers around the country. Journalist Bill Bishop wrote:
The U.S. military doesn't publish data on the hometowns of its recruits. But several months ago, Robert Cushing, a statistical consultant to the Austin American-Statesman and a retired University of Texas sociologist, began tracking the home counties of those who died in Iraq. In his analysis, Cushing found dramatic differences in casualty rates between urban and rural areas. The smaller the county's population, the higher the death rate, as evident in the chart below.
I lifted this from my local newspaper (I cannot get it to align correctly, so I'm using bold to distinguish the columns):

County Per Males Ages Deaths as Death Rate Per
Population Size 18-54 of Nov. 9 1 m population size
50,000 or less 10,648,161 80 7.51
50,000-100,000 7,276,420 47 6.46
100,000-250,000 11,937,306 70 5.85
250,000-500,000 11,072,831 57 5.15
500,000-1 million 14,965,415 57 3.81
1 million plus 19,057,382 67 3.52
Total US 74,957,515 378 5.04

Back to Bishop:
If deaths in Iraq were spread evenly across the United States, 53 soldiers from counties of fewer than 50,000 would have died. As of a week ago, the death toll for these mostly rural counties stood at 80.
So, does this mean that people from Bush's red states are more likely to enlist in the military, or does in reflect some sort of disparity in military assignments?

The article considers enlistment rates. The University of Chicago's General Social Survey
"in surveys conducted from the 1970s through the mid-'90s, found no difference in the military enlistment rates of those from small towns or farms and those from cities with more than 250,000 people.:
But there's no current data to verify if these surveys remain accurate.

As I've blogged before, George Bush aimed his 2000 campaign partly at military families -- playing up Clinton's use of the military and promising to use force only in narrow circumstances. Bluntly, he argued that it was overstretched.

The latest Washington Monthly has an article suggesting that military families are becoming frustrated with Bush's military deployments, and might constitute an important swing voting bloc in the 2004 election. I'm skeptical, but I guess Clark could get them.

Whatever it means, the data is interesting.

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