Study: Most military spouses say they are underemployed

Ninety percent of female military spouses in a recent online survey described themselves as “underemployed,” indicating they have more education or experience than needed for their current jobs, according to a new study released Wednesday.

The analysis, from Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families and the Military Officers Association of America, included more than 2,000 female respondents with active-duty spouses.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Samuel Ellis/USMC)
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Samuel Ellis/USMC)

Data from Census Bureau’s American Community Survey also shows that military spouses earn an average of 38 percent less personal income and are 30 percent more likely to be unemployed than their civilian counterparts, the study said.

The findings suggest military spouses face unique career hurdles because of their circumstances, especially as they move between states or abroad, encountering obstacles to licensing and finding new work.

Vice Adm. Norb Ryan, president of the military-officers group, said in a statement on Wednesday that the study results demonstrate “a need for concerted efforts to improve the employment issues currently faced by military spouses.”

A recent proposal from the Office of Personnel Management would relax the rules for military spouses to obtain career status, allowing them to become “permanent” federal employees with three years of service with the government instead of three continuous years.

MORE: Easier path to federal employment for military spouses?

Federal law also requires the Defense Department to give preference to military spouses for civilian jobs. But those individuals fall below disabled veterans, employees in the Equal Employment Opportunity program and workers returning from overseas in the federal hiring hierarchy.

Rosalind Maury, director of research for the Syracuse institute, said in a statement on Wednesday that she hopes the study will lead to additional programs and policies that could “help this community to overcome challenges they face in the pursuit of economic empowerment.”

Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks@washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics for more federal news. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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Josh Hicks · February 13