Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Jobs for Military Spouses - We Need Better Data

Worrying about the active-duty
spouse's survival should be enough
without financial stress as well.
Employment of Military Spouses -- Why We Need to Know

Spouses of military on active duty are likely to have trouble obtaining and keeping jobs for at least three reasons:

1. A lack of private-sector depth around military bases, which tend to be located where land is less expensive.
2. Uncertainty of the length of time the family will be at the base.
3. The problems of child care when the active-duty spouse is posted abroad or even in a different part of the United States.

So military spouses have difficulty finding and holding on to a job for reasons that are related to the unpredictability of the active-duty partner have implications for the importance of child-care availability on military bases and also for decisions about appropriate pay levels for military personnel when it is likely that the spouse will be unable to earn a second income.

Don't forget Army Dads -- some who serve
are women, and their spouses care for the kids.
Similarly, spouses of veterans have difficulties upon the discharge of the active-duty partner because re-entering civilian life may be a major adjustment for both partners. The military services try to help active-duty personnel look for work. Since family income depends on both parents, what are the obstacles to veterans and their spouses finding work? Answering this question in some detail is important for the development of policies for helping military families after the person on active duty is discharged.

Data on the Job Status of Spouses of Active-Duty Personnel and Veterans Are Not Current

Up-to-date monthly information on unemployment is collected for the Bureau of Labor Statistics by the Census Bureau through a sample, the Current Population Survey, which covers only 70,000 civilian households. Only veterans are included, not active-duty personnel. Some military spouses are included in the sample -- but they are a small and unrepresentative sample because military spouses on bases in the United States and overseas are not included.

The best thank-you is help making
it work economically.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics produces estimates of veteran employment, but not active-duty employment.

For this reason, labor force data on military spouses tend to be one-shot studies that are only briefly up to date.Information that is available on employment of military spouses comes from three main sources:

1. Active-Duty Surveys by the DoD. Surveys by the DoD cover only spouses of active-duty service members. Examples: Military Family Life Project, the Status of Forces Survey of Active-Duty Members, and the Survey of Active Duty Spouses. DoD's most recent summary of such data can be found in the Active Duty Families section (pp. 113-34) of the 2011 Demographics Report

2.  The VA's National Survey of Veterans (NSV). The most recent NSV Report is for 2010. See the Veteran Spouses, Active Duty Spouses, and Surviving Spouses section (pp. 279-309) of the report for spouse employment data. The VA collects data primarily on spouses of veterans. 

3. BLS and Census Data. The Current Population Survey (CPS) includes unemployment data collected by the Census Bureau on behalf of the Bureau of Labor Statistics - but it is a sample of about 70,000 households nationally and excludes representation of active-duty personnel, focused only on civilians, who of course include veterans; in recent years veterans have been separately identified by period of service. The American Community Survey (ACS), also conducted by the Census Bureau, updates the centennial Census and is more comprehensive, including active-duty personnel as well as veterans. But no government agency routinely publishes national estimates of military spouse employment based on either the CPS or ACS.

Filling the Gap 

The MOAA has stepped in to the 
vacuum and is doing its own survey.
Private researchers in theory could potentially fill in the gap through interpolation with estimates based on multiple databases and sampling of data within existing surveys. To our knowledge only the RAND Corporation has made attempts in this direction - most recently in a 2012 Occasional Paper. Also of interest is RAND's 2010 report Measuring Underemployment Among Military Spouses, which compares active duty spouses to their civilian counterparts.

There is an opportunity here for new research. The objective would be to develop an estimating algorithm that would permit the generation of monthly data.

(This blogpost was developed from a memo on the topic by Alex Hecht.)

No comments:

Post a Comment