According to data from the Department of Defense (DoD) Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC), there were approximately 725,877 spouses of DoD Active Duty members and approximately 413,295 spouses of Reserve and Guard members in 2010. According to the Veterans Administration's (VA) 2010 National Survey of Veterans, it is estimated that there are more than 15 million veterans' spouses in the United States and more than 5.8 million surviving spouses of veterans in the U.S. Studies by RAND (2004) have shown that female Armed Forces spouses are employed at lower rates and earn less than female civilian spouses, on average. Female civilian spouses with the same characteristics as female Armed Forces spouses have better employment outcomes than the average female Armed Forces spouse. RAND (2004) has also shown that female Armed Forces spouses are employed at lower rates and earn less than female civilian spouses, on average. In this study, the majority of Armed Forces spouses believe that the military lifestyle -- including frequent moves, deployments, living in areas with poor local labor market conditions, and long hours that keep service members from assisting with parenting -- has negatively affected their employment opportunities. Almost half believe that their educational opportunities have suffered. Armed Forces spouses work for different reasons, based on their own education level, their service member's pay grade, and their financial situation. Another study by the Department of the Treasury and the DoD (2012), using data from 2008 DMDC survey, found that nearly 35 percent of Armed Forces spouses in the labor force require licenses or certification for their profession, and that Armed Forces spouses are ten times more likely to have moved across state lines in the last year compared to their civilian counterparts, further complicating this need for licensing or certification.
The overarching objective of this research project was to evaluate the cumulative economic impact on Armed Forces spouses who may be unable to sustain employment due to Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves, licensure constraints, and lack of career enhancing opportunities. This research project contributes to a body of knowledge that provides policy makers with the information necessary to pool resources for military families and spouses, in order to increase the spouses' chances of obtaining steady employment, earning wages equivalent to those of their civilian peers, and advancing along professional career paths in spite of PCS moves. This research effort will benefit society at large through expanding the knowledge base of challenges for working spouses and working parents and will identify areas for improvement in public policy that can benefit working families. This research will drive new policies and initiatives that will provide benefits to all military spouses and families by providing them with resources to overcome the economic challenges of pursuing a career as a military spouse or a military spouse with children.