Public Choice

, Volume 168, Issue 1–2, pp 55–74 | Cite as

Explaining the worldwide decline in the length of mandatory military service, 1970–2010

  • Danko Tarabar
  • Joshua C. Hall


Compulsory military service has declined considerably since 1970. This explained by changes on both the extensive and intensive margins by governments. While the decision to use conscription for military purposes has been studied extensively, in this paper we examine empirically the factors underlying the decline in the duration of military service obligations. Employing data from the Economic Freedom of the World index observed at 5-year intervals from 1970 to 2010, we find that the probability of a shorter military service time is positively associated with smaller country populations, smaller lagged army sizes, increases in primary schooling among young males, and having common law legal origins. Our empirical approach also highlights how the elderly population exhibits a nonlinear relationship with the length of conscriptees’ time in uniform.


Conscription Economic freedom Ordered probit All volunteer force 

JEL Classification

D72 H56 



The authors would like to thank Adam Nowak for helpful comments and suggestions as well as attendees at the 2014 APEE, Public Choice, and WVU CFE Brown Bag. Part of this research was conducted while Hall was a Big XII Fellow with the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University. Hall and Tarabar would like to acknowledge the Center for Free Enterprise at West Virginia University for general research support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Business and EconomicsWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA

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