Cover: Benchmarking Demographic Diversity in Air Force Functional Areas Against Near-Equivalent Civilians

Benchmarking Demographic Diversity in Air Force Functional Areas Against Near-Equivalent Civilians

The Air Force Occupational Diversity Benchmarking Workbooks

Published Feb 22, 2023

by Avery Calkins, Tiffany Berglund, David Schulker, Louis T. Mariano

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Appendix C: Occupational Diversity Benchmarking Workbook

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Research Questions

  1. How does the demographic composition of DAF functional areas compare to the demographic composition of near-equivalent civilians?
  2. What considerations are needed when comparing the demographics of DAF personnel to the demographics of the civilian workforce?

The Department of the Air Force (DAF) has placed a strategic focus on improving talent management, including how to build a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce. To support the DAF's efforts, in fiscal year 2021, the RAND Corporation's Project AIR FORCE was asked to (1) provide targeted benchmarks and a planning tool that will allow DAF to evaluate the demographic composition of the active-duty workforce overall and functional areas within this workforce and (2) identify practices and opportunities that the DAF can use to support diversity in critical career fields. This report is one of a series of reports meant to address these tasks. In it, the authors describe the construction of career field benchmarks using near-equivalent groups of civilian workers, provide examples using several functional areas, and discuss considerations for interpreting these results. Accompanying this narrative are the Air Force Occupational Diversity Benchmarking Workbooks, a pair of Excel workbooks (one for enlisted personnel and one for officers) containing benchmarks for the demographic distribution of DAF functional areas. The benchmarks are created using civilians working in near-equivalent occupations to DAF occupations, adjusted to account for differences in age and education level between DAF and the civilian workforce. The workbooks contain a menu of benchmark options using both narrow and broad definitions of near equivalent. Each DAF occupation can also be compared to the entire civilian workforce. The authors describe considerations for choosing the most-appropriate civilian comparison group for each occupation and for interpreting comparisons.

Key Findings

  • Individual occupations in the DAF vary in terms of how their demographic diversity compares to the demographic diversity of near-equivalent civilians.
  • The demographics of DAF occupations tend to be relatively similar to the demographics of matched civilian occupations.
  • The appropriate group of civilians to use as a comparison group for the demographic diversity of a DAF occupation varies by occupation. A narrow definition of near equivalent, based on civilians who work in occupations with very similar responsibilities to the matched DAF occupation, is likely of greatest value when the job responsibilities, education requirements, and training pipeline are consistent between DAF and the civilian labor force. In contrast, broader groups of civilians are a more appropriate comparison group for DAF operations occupations and DAF occupations that do not have a true civilian equivalent.


  • Benchmarks using near-equivalent groups of civilian workers should be incorporated into barrier analyses alongside benchmarks of the upstream demographics of recent cohorts, such as benchmarks of demographic diversity at accession to the DAF.
  • Personnel performing barrier analyses in functional areas should always review and present quantitative benchmarks with an assessment of the qualitative differences in work context between military personnel and their civilian counterparts.

Research conducted by

The research reported here was commissioned by the Secretary of the Air Force Office of Diversity and Inclusion (SAF/ODI) and conducted by the Workforce, Development, and Health Program within RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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