Imperial Over-Eat

child weight.JPG

Paul Kennedy famously argued that imperial overstretch -- that is, devoting too much money and resources to military uses -- plays a central role in the decline of great powers, including the United States. But it looks like America's growing obesity epidemic is reducing the pool of capable recruits, according to this story in The Washington Post (via Dana Goldstein). 

About 75 percent of the country's 17- to 24-year-olds are ineligible for military service, largely because they are poorly educated, overweight and have physical ailments that make them unfit for the armed forces, according to a report to be issued Thursday.

Other factors, such as drug use, criminal records and mental problems, contribute to what military leaders say is a major problem that threatens the country's ability to defend itself at a time when the all-volunteer force is already strained fighting two wars.

Money quote:

When you get kids who can't do push-ups, pull-ups or run, this is a fundamental problem not just for the military but for the country," said Curtis Gilroy, the Pentagon's director of accessions policy. Many kids are not "taking physical education in school; they're more interested in sedentary activities such as the computer or television. And we have a fast-food mentality in this country." 

Childhood obesity varies considerably across the 50 states and reflects some straightforward economic and demographic patterns, according to a basic correlation analysis by my colleague Charlotta Mellander. Childhood obesity, not surprisingly, reflects adult obesity (with a correlation of .54). It is also more prevalent in states with large working-class populations (.4). It is less likely in states with higher income levels (-.32), greater concentrations of the creative class (-.37), and especially those with higher levels of adults with college degrees (-.64).

Photo Credit: Flickr User Seattle Municipal Archives


Presented by

Richard Florida is Co-founder and Editor at Large of CityLab.com and Senior Editor at The Atlantic. He is director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and Global Research Professor at NYU. More

Florida is author of The Rise of the Creative Class, Who's Your City?, and The Great Reset. He's also the founder of the Creative Class Group, and a list of his current clients can be found here.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Photos of New York City, in Motion

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

Video

What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in National

From This Author

Just In