Military Spouse Employment Report

The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) announced the results of a national study focused on military spouse employment. The presentation was made at the 8th MOAA Military Spouse Symposium in San Antonio, Feb. 12, hosted in partnership with JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The objectives of the study were two-fold:

  • Evaluate the cumulative economic impact on military spouses unable to sustain employment due to Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves, licensure constraints, and lack of career enhancing opportunities.
  • Drive new policies and initiatives that will benefit military spouses and families by providing resources to overcome challenges in pursuing a career.

The research method and approach was divided in three phases:

  • Phase 1:  Examined existing data to provide demographics and compare wage earnings of Armed Forces.Veterans spouses to civilian counterparts. (*Data Sources included: the American Community Survey (ACS), the Current Populations Survey (CPS), and The Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC)  Data)
  • Phase 2:  Create the Military Spouse Employment Survey.
  • Phase 3:  Analyze, disseminate, and report on the findings from the Military Spouse Employment Survey.

The Military Spouse Employment Survey was administered online from September 16, 2013 to October 16, 2013. Female respondents with active duty spouses comprised the largest group of the full sample, with 2,059 individuals (77.87 percent of the 2,644 total respondents).

As noted in the full report:

The two groups which were removed for the analyses performed  were male respondents with active duty spouses and male/female respondents with non-active duty spouses (veterans).  Although the current report is focused on and limited to female spouses of active-duty service members, we acknowledge that there are unique challenges facing male spouses and spouses of veterans as well. In future reports, we will analyze the data separately for each of these groups, so that we can provide a clear picture of the demographics, concerns, and challenges facing male spouses and veteran spouses compared to those of active-duty female spouses as a group.


 Key highlights included:

  • Active military spouses are predominantly female (95 percent).
  • Active military spouses are significantly younger compared to their civilian and veteran counterparts (the average age is 33 compared to 47 and 60 respectively).
  •  Active military spouses are more likely to have moved within states, across states, and abroad, compared to their civilian and veteran counterparts. The increased likelihood of moving from one geographic location to another by active military spouses interacts with economic issues for these families.
  •  In 2012, 18-24 year-old Armed Forces female spouses had the highest unemployment rates at 30 percent (almost three times higher than their civilian counterparts, which were 11 percent) according to the American Community Survey (ACS).
  •  In 2012, Armed Forces female spouses made 38% less than their civilian counterparts according to the American Community Survey (ACS).
  •  A large percentage of respondents are “underemployed” based on two key definitions – education and experience. In total, 90 percent of our employed female respondents are underemployed with respect to education, experience and/or both. 

Want to know more? These and other findings, including recommendations to address the challenges of military spouse employment are available on our Military Spouse Employment Survey website. Read the Results Summary, view the highlights on our Infographic  and review the full report.


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