How Access to College Educations Is Linked to the Decline in the Average Intelligence of Marine Corps’ Officers since the 1970s


A recently completed study by Michael Klein of the Brookings Institute and Michael Cancian of Tufts University, a veteran of recent U.S. military conflicts, explores the paradox that, since the inception of the all-volunteer force, the percentage of those with above-average intelligence who are serving in the military has dramatically increased while the percentage of officers with above-average intelligence has steadily declined. This finding is especially pronounced in the Marine Corps, in which the scores on the military’s General Classification Test (GCT) have shown an especially marked decline over the last 34 years: specifically,

1. Eighty-five percent of those taking the test in 1980 exceeded a score of 120, which was the cut-off score for officers in World War II. In 2014, only 59 percent exceeded that score.

2. At the upper end of the distribution, 4.9 percent of those taking the test scored above 150 in 1980 compared to…

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