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A military career can be very demanding for both service members and their families. The U.S. Department of Defense has sought to monitor and improve the quality of life of military families, including the level of employment opportunity available to spouses of service members. Building on previous work, a RAND study examined the extent and causes of underemployment among military spouses (specifically, military wives). Comparisons of military wives with their “look-alikes” — a group of similar civilian wives — show that military wives have a much greater tendency to be underemployed. They are much more likely not to be in the labor force, more likely to involuntarily work part-time, and more likely to have relatively high levels of education for their jobs than their civilian counterparts. Finally, they are substantially less likely to be adequately full-time employed. Thus, there appears to be a significant level of underemployment among military wives, even after controlling for relevant labor market characteristics. However, there does not seem to be a strong link between military wives' labor force position and satisfaction with their life situation, so the effects of underemployment among military spouses may not be as serious as previously thought.

The research described in this report was prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The research was conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by OSD, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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