Double your chances of being homeless: Join the military!

  1. Ivan Seeking

    Ivan Seeking 12,521
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Okay, that's probably not fair, but the stats don't bode well for military service.

    http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/11/08/homeless.veterans/index.html

    I have long argued that joining the military is no way to improve your life. Sure, it can work out great for some, but not everyone who smokes dies of lung cancer either. Joining the military is like playing Russian roulette with your life.

    Recently a report was released claiming that about one in three vets returning from Iraq have mental problems. Also, we had a friend who served as a medic in Gulf I. Within a few years of returning home, he had lost his wife and his career.

    It is one thing to join-up out of a sense of duty or in a time of war, but don’t join because it might help to improve your life!

    It is also noteworthy that the all-volunteer force claims to attract the best of the best. So this isn't a matter of recruiting people who are already losers unless the military is lying about the quality of the people who join.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. What kind of nonsense is this? Military service gives opportunity to people of all social standing. What is your point? Where are you going with this? You get people off the streets to people graduating from the best universities in the country. I've gone to school and I am currently working with Gulf veterans. Excellent people.

    Of course the military is going to say they recruit quality people, what kind of organization would claim they are recruiting "losers". This post is... dumb, IMO.
     
  4. This reminds me of a quote I heard:

    You must be barmy
    To join the army.

    When you have an institution that takes away your right to question or reason and trains you to kill what more could you expect. Any one subjected to the horrors and violence of war is bound to carry mental scars. Such violence does not come naturally.

    "Ours is not to question why
    Ours is but to do or die"

    After thousands of years of fighting wars we still haven't learnt our lesson....
     
  5. mjsd

    mjsd 860
    Homework Helper

    Yeah, war is not for everyone and is not great. But I think the problem arises not solely because of the psychological impact that comes with participating in wars abroad. Perhaps, there is a large section of these war veterans who actually came from inland/country america where the hope of getting a real city-type job is not high. So, in order to get out of those areas and to earn significantly more money than they otherwise would, the most attractive solution for them would be to join the military (usually when they are still teens or early 20s or basically just finished junior high school, I suppose).

    So, I guess when they are eventually discharged, they cannot find a suitable job (hence leads to being homeless) because of lack of education
    (after all, you don't learn a lot that is relevant for a city-job in the arm forces, I don't think,
    or at least you can't compete with those with university degrees or those who have been working in the city for many more years). And perhaps coupled with those psychological impacts (ie. stressed and lack motivation), they tend to plunge even further into the abyss of playing Russian roulette with their life :frown:
     
  6. The OP misquotes the article it links to. The quote says "war veterans", but the article says "military veterans".

    The numbers in the article are such a mishmash that it is difficult to get what they mean. I would wait for the full report before commenting on them. This line struck me as pertinent:

    I take this to mean that the correlation between poverty and homelessness is complex.
     
  7. Astronuc

    Staff: Mentor

    It's possible that CNN edited the article between the time Ivan posted the quote and others viewed it. I've seen that happen at various news sites.

    Too many!

    But - Report: 20,000 fewer chronically homeless on streets
    http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/11/07/homeless.drop.ap/index.html
     
  8. Happy Veterans's day.
     
  9. ShawnD

    ShawnD 986
    Science Advisor

    This is a lame excuse. There are a lot of places that will not hire people if they are educated. I was specifically told, word for word, by the manager of a parts distribution center that he would not hire me because "you'll just leave when you find a job in your field". My best friend has a B.Sc. in Chemistry and he was told this same thing by almost every place he applied to that was not chemistry-related. Keep in mind that we both live in a booming economy where there is an apparent labor shortage. Even when they're desperately short of people, and they'll hire fresh immigrants who barely speak english, they absolutely will not hire people who have skills that are unrelated to the job. If you're a military vet who claims to have little or no skills, and you can't find a job, there is something seriously wrong.

    Now this is a real problem that should be dealt with. It might have something to do with extended tour of duty.
     
  10. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    You really can use the military to your benefit, you just need to be smart and get an agreement before you sign up on what type of job/technology you will be trained in. You will have excellent skills when you are discharged, plus your benefits will pay for continued schooling after you quit.

    If you just enlist without any thought to what you want to be trained on, that's your fault.

    Also, I would guess that the majority of the homeless GIs have either medical or mental problems. This is the sad part where we aren't doing enough to take care of the enlisted men/women that have suffered physically or mentally and are less likley to be employed.
     
  11. BobG

    BobG 2,346
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Or it means there's extreme differences. The experience of Air Force and Navy vets tend to be completely different than the experiences of Army and Marine infantry. Air Force and Navy personnel in war zones have less of chance of dieing during their tour than their contemporaries (in age and gender) among civilians in the US. They also tend to have the most educational opportunities and the best prospects for post-military employment (theoretically, all military have the same educatinal opportunities, but it's hard to take advantage of them if you're serving in the infantry in a combat zone).

    Less than half (about 650,000 out of around 1.4 million plus reserves) of all military actually serve a combat tour. Those in combat career fields see multiple combat tours because 130,000 to 165,000 are in Iraq at any one time. While the original article does say "military veterans" instead of "war veterans", actually fighting in a war is the main risk factor.
     
  12. Gokul43201

    Gokul43201 11,141
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Which one? I was going to agree with you, but I suspect you'd disagree with me.
     
  13. BobG

    BobG 2,346
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Do you not understand the meaning of "this"?:rofl:

    I shouldn't be mean. I agree with his first paragraph.
     
  14. Gokul43201

    Gokul43201 11,141
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    No, that's not true. That the homeless have more veterans than non-veterans does not mean veterans experience more poverty than non-veterans. Thinking it does is probably the outcome of a Gaussian mindset. About 15% of the population is considered poor, but less than 1% is homeless. A bimodal income distribution among veterans will easily produce greater homelessness but lower poverty.
     
  15. According to the article (not me) Veterans experience less poverty than the general population, Is that what you mean by "that's not true"? In general money gives you more choices. If veterans choose homelessness over other manifestations of poverty, is that anyone's business but their own? What evidence is there for a bimodal income distribution? And what is a Gaussian mindset?
     
  16. Gokul43201

    Gokul43201 11,141
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    No. I mean that the conclusion that there must be a complex or counterintuitive relationship between poverty and homelessness does not follow from the two statistical results provided in the quote.

    I didn't say there was evidence for a bimodal distribution. I said a bimodal would easily reconcile the two apparently contradictory statements without requiring a counter intuitive relationship between poverty and homelesness (eg: veterans prefer to be homeless with 5 cars, than pick a roof in exchange for all 5). If - for a purely mathematical demostration - every 20 veterans sampled contained 1 homeless person and 19 millionaires, then at a 5% homeless rate, they are 5 times more homeless than the average American, but also exhibiting a 5% poverty rate, they are 3 times less poor than average.

    A Gaussian midset - to borrow a phrase from a fellow physicist - is a tendency among physicists to impose a Gaussian or Gaussian-like (Lorenzian, Boltzmannian, etc. distributions which are non-monotonic, with exactly one global maximum which is roughly indicative of the mean of the distribution) structure to an unknown distribution, simply out of habit (from QM, typically).
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2007
  17. Good, cause there isn't any.

    This is a strawman argument. You don't know what the veterans are using their money for.
    So what is the Homelessness Research Institute proposing. Force veterans to buy the 'right' things with their money? Does the Institute represent the housing industry?

    Leaves me out, I'm no physicist, and I don't have the tendency you describe.
     
  18. russ_watters

    Staff: Mentor

    I know I jumped into it way late, but the whole thread is predicated on the classic cause-effect relationship error. The military doesn't cause people to become homeless, it just happens that many of the people it recruits are in the low-end of society. People who would have ended up homeless whether they were in the military or not.
     
  19. Yes, a little late. Actually, according to the article

    Don't intend to do what Kerry didn't intend.
     
  20. Gokul43201

    Gokul43201 11,141
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    But your argument for a complex relationship between homelessness and poverty still implicitly assumes a particular structure to the underlying distribution when there isn't evidence for one.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2007
  21. I haven't read any replies yet, so I apologize if I am repeating something that someone else said.

    I think you might be over looking some things because there are many other variables at play. Veterans are more likely to be homeless than who? The average person in the US? If that's what their saying then it is probably a meaningless statistic that doesn't tell you anything because people who go into the military (on average) have different characteristics than the average US citizen. For example, members of the military are more likely to not have gone to college, and I think they're also more likely to have dropped out of highschool. I imagine both of these variables are correlated with homelessness. Therefore, in order to really see if the military and homelessness are correlated, you'd have to run a multiple regression analysis which includes many other variables. If this was done, one may find out that being in the military actually has no affect on homelessness when controlling for these other important variables. In fact, maybe when people with similar characteristics are compared, going to the military may decrease the likelyhood of being homeless.

    And as to your claim that people shouldn't join in an attempt to improve their life, I'm not sure I agree. Many people who joined obviously saw this as their best choice, so maybe it was their personal optimal decision.

    Actually, the all-volunteer force is not about attracting the "best of the best." The pay is simply not high enough to attract many highly qualified people. Most highly qualified people would rather go to college (and then possibly grad school) where they can make much more money then they ever could in the military. If they really wanted to attract the best of the best, they would raise the pay.

    In fact, going to an all-volunteer force instead of a draft was advocated not so it could attract the "best of the best," but rather to attract people who's best option is the military, which would probably decrease the average qualifications of member of the military because with a draft you'll suck up some high quality people who wouldn't be there if they had to volunteer. The logic goes like this, if you draft Bill Gates into the military he can not be out in the world doing what he does best, and that this is a huge loss for the overall country, which makes the draft highly inefficient. In other words, a draft may be cheaper in budgetary costs, but it is extremely costly in social costs. There were many prominent economists who studied and researched this (around the 70's I think) and found evidence in line with what I am saying. In fact, these economists were very influential in getting the draft abolished under President Nixon. They worked under something called the Gates Commission. If your interested about this topic, read some stuff by the economists Walter Oi and Milton Friedman.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share a link to this question via email, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?