WASHINGTON -- The number of blacks joining the military has plunged by more than one-third since the Afghanistan and Iraq wars began.
Other job prospects are soaring and relatives of potential recruits increasingly are discouraging them from joining the armed services.
According to Pentagon data obtained by the Associated Press, the decline covers all four military services for active duty recruits.
The drop is even more dramatic when National Guard and Reserve recruiting is included.
The findings reflect the growing unpopularity of the wars, particularly among family members and other adults who exert influence over high school and college students considering the military as a place to serve their country, further their education, or build a career.
Slightly more Hispanics have been joining the military since the wars began, but recruiters say that trend may be about to change.
The figures involving Hispanics are somewhat mixed and vary according to military service, with more heading into the Army in 2006 than in 2001 and fewer answering the Marines' call.
The latest Army figures suggest a potential problem with sustaining the current level of Hispanic recruiting in the future: There was slight dip between 2005 and 2006, the last year for which numbers were available.
Walking past the Army recruiting station in downtown Washington last week, Sean Glover said he has done all he can to talk his black relatives out of joining the military.
"I don't think it's a good time. I don't support the government's efforts here and abroad," said Glover, 36. "There's other ways you can pay for college. There's other ways you can get your life together. Joining the Army, the military, comes at a very high price."