Cost of Military Spouse Unemployment, Underemployment Mounts

High rates of unemployment, underemployment and reduced labor force participation among military spouses are costing the nation between $710 million and $1.1 billion a year, according to a new report from Blue Star Families.

The study calculated the cost of lost federal income tax, unemployment benefits, and costs for health care issues related to unemployment and underemployment. The lost income taxes that spouses would have paid represented the largest component of the economic impact, ranging from $578 million to $763 million, reported Military Times.

“The No. 1 reason we have this crippling problem is that it’s invisible,” said Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO of Blue Star Families.

Military spouses have an unemployment rate of up to 18 percent, compared to last month’s national jobless rate of 5 percent, due to their frequent moves, and deployments and erratic schedules of their service member partners.  The study estimated that military spouses with a bachelor’s degree earn 40 percent less than their civilian counterparts.

“This study will play a critical role in helping us define the scope of the problem and also identify some solutions,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said at a press conference with Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.). The two lawmakers are the co-chairs of the Congressional Military Family Caucus.

Roth-Douquet said she hopes to create a coalition aimed at hiring military spouses that’s similar to ongoing efforts to hire veterans, such as Joining Forces. “Like with veterans, we can come together as a community. … This is a problem everyone can be a part of the solution to,” she said.

Dan Cohen
Dan Cohen
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