A new study from the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and Syracuse University shows a huge wage gap between active duty female military spouses and their civilian counterparts.
Female spouses make annually about $13,300 less than civilian women. When the study compares female military spouses with kids who have moved to female civilian spouses with kids who have moved, the gap increases. For example, military moms who have recently moved make about $14,600 less their matched civilian counterparts.
You may have taken part in MOAA survey, which ran for a month last fall. The report examines the data collected from that survey and information from the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey. The final report only looks at the responses of only the active duty females who took the survey so that researchers could get an accurate picture of one type of spouse. They said they plan to examine the data from male and veteran spouses in future reports.
When we talked to Karen Golden, MOAA's deputy director of government relations and military family issues, she said the wage gap is particularly concerning when you consider the 40,000 troops set to leave the military this year alone. For those with families, that means they will be entering full reliance on the civilian economy with a significant earnings disadvantage.
The disparity is caused by the things you might guess -- education level, moving across state lines, living in locations where there just aren't any good jobs, difficulty transfering licenses (which half of those who responded to the study say their career field requires) and availability of work in their chosen field. In fact, the study found that 90 percent of respondents are underemployed in jobs that require less experience, education or both.
The report makes several recommendations for fixing this problem, most of which revolved around strengthening DoD spouse employment offerings of better publicizing the ones that are already out there.
There will be plenty of people reading this who immediately think that asking the Defense Department to help us fix this encourages an attitude of entitlement.
But I disagree and here's why:First of all, the Defense Department is already spending $79 million yearly on spouse employment. Why not make sure that money is well spent and actually helping people?
But more than that is this issue: when you cause underemployment and a huge wage gap by frequently relocating families you are setting them up for failure. Yes, some relocation is necessary due to the way the military has set-up servicemember career tracks. But truly most servicemembers don't need to move as much as they do. A little homesteading would go a long way in helping spouses start and maintain careers that, when their servicemember gets out, set the family up for transition success.
In the meantime, I don't think helping fix the problem through employment assistance is too much to ask. And the DoD IS trying to do that -- as that $79 million indicates. So how can we help them do it better?