Editor’s Note: The Atlantic has done a great job in the below report illustrating the plight our nation’s military families face. Many military spouses are struggling to find stable, well-paying jobs simply because their husbands or wives are active duty.
Connected Nation recognized this need and, in late 2018, launched a version of our job training and placement program, Digital Works, specifically to support military spouses as well as our veterans.
The following report was published by The Atlantic on March 28, 2019
by Julie Bogen
During a Thanksgiving morning video-conference call with military personnel overseas, Donald Trump said: “I know I speak on behalf of all Americans when I say that we totally support you—in fact, we love you. We really do. We love you.” And data shows that he was speaking on behalf of most Americans. Nearly three-quarters of Americans expressed confidence in the United States armed forces in 2018, according to Gallup. A similar poll found that satisfaction with the military’s strength and preparedness is currently at a 15-year high, with 38 percent of respondents identifying as “very satisfied” and 40 percent as “somewhat satisfied.” Yet when it comes to supporting military families in the most tangible way—financially—the U.S. falls flat.
Despite a military budget that has been massive for years, a 2018 report from Blue Star Families revealed that nearly two-thirds of military families “experienced stress due to their current financial situation” and “37 percent feel insecure about their financial future.” Military families report difficulty making ends meet at twice the rate of civilian families, and more than half of the families in the report said the main reason for that difficulty is that the family’s nonmilitary partner had struggled with unemployment or underemployment (meaning she couldn’t find work in the field she was trained for).
A recent Department of Defense survey found that a quarter of military spouses are unemployed—a rate roughly six times the 2017 national average of about 4 percent (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) and nearly two and a half times the rate in the majority of the country’s most impoverished neighborhoods. I’ve lost track of how many fellow military spouses have told me they abandoned careers they loved and were proud of solely because of the obstacles the military life presented. I am lucky to work in an industry that can often accommodate remote work (since my husband is training to be a Navy doctor), but for so many people this isn’t the case. And, for that matter, I myself don’t know what I’ll do if we ever end up stationed in Japan or Hawaii, because the time difference makes being awake during continental–United States working hours essentially impossible.
The only other population with a similar rate of joblessness is the Kusilvak Census Area in Alaska, where the unemployment rate is about three points lower. Of the military spouses who do work, more than half say they are working in positions that they are overqualified for. And many aren’t earning very much: According to a White House report, military spouses earn on average 26.8 percent less than their nonmilitary peers, amounting to more than $10,000 of lost income each year.
Military spouses are at a unique disadvantage when it comes to finding gainful employment. Frequent moves among duty stations are riddled with complications and expenses, ranging from the seemingly insignificant (such as delivery errors and damaged personal belongings) to the higher-stakes issues of finding new schools or nannies or daycare for a family’s children. Almost a third of military families report more than $1,000 of unreimbursed expenses during their last move, and 72 percent cannot obtain reliable access to child care.