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The wealth gap is a complex topic replete with differing opinions and myths. This publication provides the Department of the Air Force (DAF) with an organizing structure of the underpinnings of the wealth gap experienced by women and racial/ethnic minorities, and the intersectionality across both groups, to better inform human capital management decisions.

Wealth and its associated gaps across gender and racial/ethnic minority groups are important for the DAF to consider because the citizens whom it seeks to recruit come from macroenvironments that have historic disparities. These disparities affect current and future service members and the social networks from which they come. It also is useful for the DAF to understand the nuances of the wealth gap and think through the role it could serve in reducing wealth-related disparities.

This publication provides DAF leaders and policymakers with an interdisciplinary framework that merges four selected lenses—generational wealth, vocational psychology, wealth management, and psychological mindset—to better see and understand the wealth gap when considering potential recruits from underrepresented groups. Recommendations for the DAF (and the U.S. Department of Defense [DoD]) offer actionable ways to bridge the wealth gap and uphold DoD's mission of equality and inclusion.

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Funding for this research was made possible through the concept formulation provision of the Department of the Air Force–RAND Sponsoring Agreement and was conducted within the Workforce, Development, and Health Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

This commentary is part of the RAND expert insight series. RAND Expert Insights present perspectives on timely policy issues. All RAND Expert Insights undergo peer review to ensure high standards for quality and objectivity.

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