Cover: Today's Army Spouse Panel Survey Results

Today's Army Spouse Panel Survey Results

Financial Vulnerability Among Army Families, Spring to Fall 2022

Published Dec 20, 2023

by Carra S. Sims, Thomas E. Trail

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Research Questions

  1. What types of financial vulnerabilities do Army spouses and families face?
  2. How do these financial vulnerabilities affect different demographic groups in the Army community?
  3. What types of resources are available to military spouses and families to alleviate these vulnerabilities, and do spouses use these resources?

Military spouses and families sometimes struggle financially. For example, a 2022 U.S. Department of Defense report noted that 24 percent of active-duty service members indicated some level of food insecurity in 2020, the first year of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. In 2021 and 2022, soldiers and Army spouses reported that financial issues, such as challenges with spouse employment and military pay and benefits, were among the top five problems that they experienced. To further explore these and other issues facing U.S. Army spouses and families, RAND Corporation researchers used the Today's Army Spouse Panel to measure financial vulnerabilities and to track financial indicators over time. Analyses of data collected from this panel offer insight into the financial vulnerabilities and strengths of U.S. Army families, including food insecurity, trouble paying various bills, experience of household financial strain, and use of and interest in financial resources.

Key Findings

  • More than 50 percent of spouses of soldiers in every pay grade group were considered food secure. However, overall, about 25 percent were considered to have low or very low food security.
  • Spouses who experience low or very low food security are more likely than spouses who are food secure to report challenges covering rent or mortgage payment increases.
  • While nearly two-thirds of spouses reported paying all bills on time in the past year, roughly one-third reported experiencing some or a lot of difficulty doing so.
  • Spouses who reported the highest level of household financial strain included spouses of enlisted soldiers and spouses who were unemployed and looking for work.
  • About 20 percent of spouses reported using professional financial services of any kind—from the Army or other sources.
  • Lack of awareness and lack of perceived usefulness of military resources topped the reasons that spouses who were open to professional financial help did not seek it from the Army.

Research conducted by

This research was prepared for the United States Army and conducted within RAND Arroyo Center’s Personnel, Training, and Health Program.

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