Cover: Today's Army Spouse Panel Survey Results

Today's Army Spouse Panel Survey Results

Impact of COVID-19, August 2020 to May 2021

Published Jan 17, 2023

by Thomas E. Trail, Carra S. Sims, Michael S. Pollard, Owen Hall

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Research Questions

  1. Does the Today's Army Spouse Panel provide the Army and the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff with focused, timely answers from Army families to relevant questions?
  2. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected Army spouses with respect to employment, child care, financial, and other concerns?

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic had a broad and continuing impact across society in 2020 and 2021, including an effect on military families. The Today's Army Spouse Panel, an operational proof-of-concept panel, surveyed U.S. Army spouses to assess their experiences and perspectives during the pandemic, focusing on issues related to finances, employment, and child care, and provided a glimpse into how Army families navigated this challenging period.

The panel proved to be a useful tool for Army leadership to gather timely information from spouses, track important spouse outcomes over time, and inform Army senior leader decisionmaking.

Key Findings

  • The vast majority of Army spouses reported that the pandemic had a considerable impact on their lives during the time of the study, August 2020 through May 2021.
  • Most spouses reported trusting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for information about the pandemic, and about half reported trusting pandemic information from the Army.
  • As of August 2020, most spouses who had experienced an impact on their employment status reported that this impact was negative.
  • Spouses' employment status fluctuated over time: Among those who were unemployed at one or more time points, 14 percent reported that they did not have a job at any of the survey time points.
  • Of those who experienced an employment issue, 41 percent did not use any employment resources, and just over half used civilian rather than military resources.
  • Household financial strain decreased over time. Those reporting the highest level of financial strain were those who were unemployed and spouses of enlisted soldiers.
  • Most spouses reported that the COVID-19 pandemic affected their family life, from canceled vacations (70 percent) to having a special needs child lose access to services (12 percent).
  • Most spouses with children experienced a change in child care, and 40 percent of those working said that they had to quit their job or reduce their work hours because of child care changes.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the Personnel, Training, and Health Program within RAND Arroyo Center.

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