The Impact of Deployment on the Post-Deployment Labor Market Earnings of Reservists

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David Loughran

Senior Economist, RAND Corporation

Associate Director, RAND Labor and Population

Since September 11, 2001, hundreds of thousands of reservists have returned home from lengthy deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. These reservists face a variety of challenges in reintegrating themselves into civilian life, not the least of which is reentering the civilian labor market. Although the civilian employment of most reservists is protected under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), reservists nonetheless might suffer economic hardship in their post-deployment years because of lost civilian work experience, injury, and other difficulties adjusting to civilian work life.

This study, conducted at the request of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, employs high-quality administrative data to investigate whether deployment adversely affects the labor market earnings of reservists. The study finds the following:

  • Deployment lowers the civilian earnings of reservists by about 5 percent in the first year after deployment.
  • However, two years after deployment, the civilian earnings of reservists recover and, in many cases, exceed the civilian earnings they would have received had they never been deployed.
  • Deployed reservists are more likely to remain in the reserves, causing their post-deployment military earnings to exceed those of reservists who were never deployed.

These findings will be of interest to policymakers, manpower analysts, and other individuals concerned about the effects of deployment on the civilian lives of reservists and their families.

This work was conducted by the Forces and Resources Policy Center within the RAND National Defense Research Institute.

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