The Military Family Survey Data Point No One Is Talking About

January 5, 2018

In 2013, MOAA launched a comprehensive military spouse employment survey with Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families. In the final report, released in 2014, we limited the statistics to active duty female military spouses, because there were not a scientifically significant number of male military spouses who took the survey.

The 2017 Blue Star Families (BSF) Military Family Lifestyle Survey reported that “almost half (49 percent) of male military spouse respondents reported working full-time, compared to just 27 percent of female military spouse respondents.”

Why are these numbers so disparate?

In 2015, there were 707,233 married active duty servicemembers and almost 100,000 of those servicemembers had male spouses. About half of those male spouses also were in the military.

We don't have exact numbers from BSF, but one could assume at least some of the male spouses who reported working full-time could be in the military as well (given the ratios of dual-military marriages for female servicemembers vs. male servicemembers).

But let's assume that's not the case -  a male servicemember spouse probably would identify himself as a servicemember first, not a spouse, right? So, how are male military spouses maintaining full-time careers at such a high rate compared to female military spouses?

BSF also reports “50 percent of female spouses citing family obligations as a top career obstacle compared to 30 percent of male spouses.” This indicates a difference in either perception or reality. Do gender roles at home affect the way males perceive career responsibilities differently than females? Do males have a different experience in job seeking and career advancement than females? I think most of us would answer yes to both of these questions.

So why aren't we talking about these differences? What can we learn from male military spouses? How do they balance career ambitions and guilt over not being a stay-at-home parent? Does that balance affect their career outcome? How can the female military spouse population adopt male spouse perceptions or even change their own reality to better align with those experienced by the male military spouse community?

We spend a lot of time tracking the effects of military service on military families but not very much time talking about this very specific population. Male military spouses too often are overlooked. As the demographics of the military continue to shift, the male military spouse population will grow. Understanding the changing dynamics of military service and gender roles also will gain importance. It is clear there is a lot we don't know and a lot we can learn from those who don't meet the stereotype of a military spouse. Let's rev up the conversation.

Are you a male military spouse? Do you have a male military spouse? Do you face military family challenges differently than those around you? We want to hear from you. Email us at moaaspouse@moaa.org.

 

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