Today, the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) released a report on the employment challenges facing military spouses. Please see below for the introduction and read the full report here.
American military spouses, who number approximately 690,000, are a diverse population. Like their active duty husbands and wives, they come from varying racial and ethnic backgrounds, and bring a diversity of skills to the labor market. But military spouses face a particular challenge: they often find their labor market activities, including choices over whether to work, how many hours, and in what occupation, to be subject to the geographic and temporal constraints imposed by their active duty spouse. Spouses of service men and women stationed abroad are particularly disadvantaged, as foreign hosts often do not grant spousal work visas.
But even stateside assignments can bring difficulties. Military families typically move every two to three years, requiring frequent labor market adjustments for those who do not have remote work arrangements. In anticipation of frequent moves, employers may be reluctant to hire military spouses or they may offer these workers a lower wage in an attempt to recover turnover costs. Moreover, short cycles in each location may make it more difficult for military spouses to recoup the costs of occupational licensing and other fixed costs of labor force participation. Indeed, military spouses may be the quintessential “trailing spouse,” their situation made even more challenging because their families encounter location assignments, rather than location choices, and the result may not be conducive to employment. Indeed, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2017) reports that many military bases are located more than 50 miles from an urban center.