Brookings’ Michael Klein and Tufts University’s Matthew Cancian — a former Marine officer who served in Afghanistan — take a closer look at the steady and troubling decline in the average intelligence of Marine Corps officers:
After analyzing test scores of 46,000 officers who took the Marine Corps’ required General Classification Test (GCT), Klein and Cancian find that the quality of officers in the Marines, as measured by those test scores, has steadily and significantly declined over the last 34 years.
So what’s causing this steady decline in GCT scores? According to Klein and Cancian, the decline in officer quality might actually have to do with the fact that more people are receiving college degrees than ever before: The authors note that the decrease of GCT scores over time correlates to an increase in the college participation rate during that same period.
Eric Crampton suggests some other plausible candidate explanations:
- Higher opportunity costs for high IQ people since the 80s.
- Greater cultural disparaging of the military in elite circles, so it is not aspired to by those of higher ability.
- Decreasing trust in that military is a force for good or really much needed (see the decline as the Soviets turned friendlier under Gorbachev, the levelling off and rise around Gulf War I, and the resumed decline after that).
- Fewer smart but lower income kids needing to use ROTC to afford college with expansions in student aid.