The American Military Draft: Is Gen Z Mature Enough for The Greatest Generation’s Draft Age?

black and white photo of soldiers in battle
November 10, 2021

Gen Z: Our Generation

Since 1942, the American military draft has hovered between 18 to 19 years of age despite the vast cultural changes between The Greatest Generation and Gen Z, raising the question; should the draft age be modified based on generations that have grown up in within “slow life strategy” culture?

From America’s early military beginnings, the draft age has continued to fluctuate between the ages of 18 and 21. In 1940, the American military draft age was 21 due to the Selective Service Act put into place during WWI. But only a short time later on Nov. 11, 1942, the draft age was lowered to 18 in the midst of WWII.

Yet since WWII, the original draft age of 21 has not been amended or reinstated despite how it was reinstated during WWI after the Spanish-American war in 1898. With six vastly different generations existing from 1940 to modern-day, is it truly fair to keep implementing a draft age that was created in a time of crisis by one generation?

Whereas The Greatest Generation, born from 1901 to 1927, was characterized for their ability to overcome adversity, on the flipside Gen Z, individuals born since 1997, has been characterized as a more progressive, and less risk-taking generation. Gen Z is seeing a greater “extension” of childhood into the later teen years than previous generations because they are currently following the “slow life strategy” as described by the article Consilience and Life History Theory: From genes to brain to reproductive strategy from Science Direct.

The slow life strategy happens naturally within generations that spend more time and effort on the development of a child. Children within “slow life” cultures end up spending their childhood focused on education and extracurricular activities rather than survival or work. The Millennial generation, born between 1989 and 1996, also experienced the slow life strategy first-hand. Pew Research published research in 2016 that showed only 26% of their generation was married at the equivalent age that 65% of The Silent Generation, born 1928 to 1945, was married.

Though both The Greatest Generation and Gen Z have experienced major historical events such as World War II and the Coronavirus pandemic, their respective levels of maturity at the age of 18 vastly differ. The Greatest Generation is characterized by hardworking, tough-as-nails individuals who lived through The Great Depression and World War Two.

In his book, The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw says, “Sacrifices. They married in record numbers and gave birth to another distinctive generation, the Baby Boomers. They stayed true to their values of personal responsibility, duty, honor, and faith.” In a sense, The Greatest Generation had no choice but to be tough when adversity came.

If a war broke out and modern-day American 18-year-olds were conscripted for the military by a new Selective Service Act, how fair would the playing field be compared with when the age was implanted in 1942? Engaging in adult behaviors like mowing the lawn or paying taxes, sometimes referred to as “adulting”, has become a joke in the past 12 years whereas it was simply a fact of life beforehand.

Before Gen Z and Millennials, “adulting” was simply that—accepting reality and becoming an adult. Time Magazine quoted Jane Solomon, Lexicographer at, as saying, “This generation of millennials,” she says, “they go through life stages that other generations have gone through much later in life, like starting families, owning homes. Maybe they won’t own homes at all.”

Being conscripted for the military in 1942 as an 18-year-old fresh off the heels of WWI and The Great Depression is a completely different situation than conscription as a Millennial or especially as a Gen Z 18-year-old with a TikTok following. After seeing this “slow life strategy” gap within modern-day culture, should the American military take strides to make potential reforms within their programs?