Unemployment Among Post-9/11 Veterans and Military Spouses After the Economic Downturn

by Paul Heaton, Heather Krull

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Research Questions

  1. How do veterans fare economically after they exit military service?
  2. How successful are military spouses at finding employment?
  3. How similar are post-9/11 veterans and their spouses to the civilian population?

Policymakers need to understand whether military spouses succeed at finding jobs and how veterans fare economically after they leave military service. But these groups differ from the civilian population in important ways, making comparisons difficult. Researchers must adjust comparisons to account for demographic differences across these populations to provide useful information to policymakers. Using data from the American Community Survey, the authors take a snapshot of unemployment among post-9/11 veterans and military spouses. Adjusting for demographic differences, they find that unemployment rates among these veterans are above those of their civilian counterparts but not dramatically so. For military spouses, they observe that unemployment rates are appreciably above those of comparable civilians but below other published estimates of the unemployment rate for this population. They determine that veterans and military spouses may face important employment obstacles deserving of policymakers' attention, but the situation may not be as extreme as some have suggested.

Key Findings

Post-9/11 Veterans Have Higher Unemployment Than Similar Nonveterans

  • Unemployment rates among post-9/11 veterans are higher than those of their civilian counterparts, but not dramatically so.
  • High unemployment among young post-9/11 veterans can be attributed to weakness in the labor market for young adults rather than for veterans.

The Spouses of post-9/11 Veterans Have Appreciably Higher Unemployment Rates Than Similar Nonveterans

  • Unemployment rates among post-9/11 veteran spouses are appreciably above the rates of their civilian counterparts.

This research was conducted jointly by RAND Health's Center for Military Health Policy Research and the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute (NDRI), and was sponsored by the Office of the Director — Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, Office of the Secretary of Defense.

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