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Military spouses are often underemployed

Marlene Aceves embraces her husband Matthew Aceves following a homecoming ceremony at Kentucky's Fort Knox, 2013. Luke Sharrett/Getty Images

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A new study commissioned by Blue Star Families looks at the economic toll military life can take on family members, especially military spouses. According to a new study commissioned by Blue Star Families, military spouses are about one and half times more likely to be unemployed than other civilians.

Military spouses often have to take jobs below their skill level due to frequent moves.

“Military families, just like many other families, need two incomes to get by,” said Joyce Raezer, executive director of the National Military Families Association, “And when you have a spouses income restricted in many cases because of the military life, that causes problems for the military family.”

Blue Star Families worked with the Sorenson Impact Center to look at how that affects the broader economy.   The analysis found military spouses are about one and half times more likely to be unemployed than other civilians. And the Center’s executive director, Jeremy Keele, said that the cost could be up to about a billion dollars, mostly in lost tax revenue.  

“But there are other costs associated with these disproportionately high rates of unemployment and underemployment in this population,” he said, “including cost to the government in providing unemployment and welfare benefits to the population.”

Meredith Kleykamp is director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland- College Park.  She said while military families can be somewhat buffered from the shocks of the broader economy, they are vulnerable to other issues civilians may not feel, such as military sequesters or drawdowns.

“As we’re winding down from war,” she said, “we’re also downsizing our military. That’s leaving some of…the military service members wondering if they are going to have their job cut, if they are still going to have the 10 more years they were planning to put into retirement, or if they are going to be let go.”

Kleykamp said that dynamic is creating the kind of economic uncertainty for military families that the recession created for civilians.

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