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Research Questions

  1. How can DoD assess and improve Hispanic representation in its civilian workforce?
  2. What are the levels of Hispanic representation across the DoD civilian workforce?
  3. What observable labor-force characteristics can explain Hispanic underrepresentation in the DoD civilian workforce?
  4. What job characteristics affect the likelihood of Hispanics applying to jobs in the DoD civilian workforce?
  5. What do DoD representatives perceive as potential barriers to Hispanic employment in the DoD civilian workforce?
  6. What do college and university representatives perceive as potential barriers to Hispanic students applying for jobs in the DoD civilian workforce?

Hispanics are less represented in the federal government workforce than in the U.S. civilian labor force, and they are particularly underrepresented in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) civilian workforce. Although previous analyses have demonstrated that Hispanics are underrepresented in DoD, research has not yet considered employment barriers for Hispanics across DoD agencies. In this report, the authors provide information that might help DoD address Hispanic underrepresentation in its civilian workforce. They examine trends in Hispanic employment in the DoD, non-DoD federal, and civilian workforces. They also explore whether DoD labor-force characteristics might account for Hispanic underrepresentation in DoD. In addition, the authors examine observed trends in job applicants and applications to DoD. They also present findings from interviews that they conducted with DoD hiring managers and supervisors and representatives of Hispanic-serving institutions. They conclude with recommendations for DoD to consider as part of its efforts to address Hispanic underrepresentation in the DoD civilian workforce.

Key Findings

Multiple Factors Contribute to Hispanic Underrepresentation in the DoD Civilian Workforce

  • Hispanic representation in DoD lags behind that of the civilian labor force (CLF) and the rest of the federal government. This representation gap is unlikely to improve without DoD taking action: Hispanic representation in the DoD civilian workforce is slightly higher among separating employees than among new hires. Hispanics are less likely to work in high-promoting areas, and they are concentrated in lower-grade positions.
  • Workforce characteristics account for 92 percent of the observed Hispanic representation gap between the DoD civilian workforce and CLF. Substantial contributors to Hispanic underrepresentation in the DoD civilian workforce are education, citizenship, veteran's status, age, location, and occupation.
  • Most job applicants do not provide their ethnicity on Different techniques for addressing missing data on ethnicity can contribute to different conclusions regarding ethnic diversity among job applicants and applications.
  • The geography problem is complex: Many DoD locations do not align with Hispanic population areas, which might be where most potential recruits live.
  • Frequently mentioned barriers to Hispanic employment in the DoD civilian workforce include the geographic location of DoD positions, perceptions of language or citizenship barriers among potential applicants, and a lack of awareness or motivation from DoD leaders and managers to address Hispanic underrepresentation.


  • Expand DoD outreach to the Hispanic population, especially to younger Hispanic workers in U.S. Hispanic population centers.
  • Increase DoD presence with Hispanic student populations at colleges and universities, particularly Hispanic-serving institutions.
  • Stay engaged with promising candidates during the application process, and, when possible, leverage appropriate hiring authorities.
  • Support the development of Hispanic-friendly communities in the workplace through employee resource groups and mentoring.
  • Improve the accessibility, accuracy, and utility of job-applicant data.

The research was sponsored by the Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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