Young Veterans and the Transition to Civilian Employment: Does Marital Status Matter?

  • Meredith Kleykamp
  • Sidra Montgomery
Part of the Risk and Resilience in Military and Veteran Families book series (RRMV)


The sequencing and timing of employment, education, and family formation differs between veterans and nonveterans due to the overlapping nature of military service with other commitments such as higher education and civilian labor force participation. Labor market opportunities and outcomes for these young veterans are an important step in their transition to adulthood, likely influencing and being influenced by, in particular, family decisions, such as marriage and becoming a parent. Using nationally representative data, we examine how veteran and marital status influence labor force participation, employment, earnings, and college enrollment. In summary, veterans appear to do worse than their peers in terms of labor force participation and employment. The veteran “penalty” in labor force participation is only significant for married veterans, compared against married nonveterans. All veterans, single, married, divorced or separated, male or female appear to have lower odds of employment than civilians. Accounting for compositional differences only increases this gap. Among those who do find paid work, male veterans appear to out earn their civilian peers.


Veterans Military Employment College Labor force Earnings 


  1. Angrist, J. (1998). Estimating the labor market impact of voluntary military service using social security data on military applicants. Econometrica, 66, 249–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aronson, P. (2008). The markers and meanings of growing up. Gender & Society, 22, 56–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blau, F. D., & Kahn, L. M. (2007). The gender pay gap: Have women gone as far as they can? Academy of Management Perspectives, 21(1), 7–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Buchmann, C. (2009). Gender inequalities in the transition to college. Teachers College Record, 111(10), 2320–2346.Google Scholar
  5. Buchmann, C., & DiPrete, T. (2006). The growing female advantage in college completion: The role of family background and academic achievement. American Sociological Review, 71(4), 515–541.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Budig, M., & England, P. (2001). The wage penalty for motherhood. American Sociological Review, 66, 204–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Budig, M., & Hodges, M. (2010). Differences in disadvantage: Variation in the motherhood penalty across White women’s earnings distribution. American Sociological Review, 75(5), 705–728.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012). Employment situation of veterans—2011. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved June 24, 2012, from
  9. Chandler, T., Kamo, Y., & Werbel, J. (1994). Do delays in marriage and childbirth affect earnings? Social Science Quarterly, 75(4), 838–853.Google Scholar
  10. Cohen, P. N., & Bianchi, S. M. (1999). Marriage, children, and women’s employment: What do we know? Monthly Labor Review, 122(12), 22–31.Google Scholar
  11. Cohen, J., Warner, R. L., & Segal, D. R. (1995). Military service and educational attainment in the all-volunteer force. Social Science Quarterly, 76, 88–104.Google Scholar
  12. Cooney, R. T., Segal, M. W., Segal, D. R., & Falk, W. W. (2003). Racial differences in the impact of military service on the socioeconomic status of women veterans. Armed Forces & Society, 30, 53–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cotter, D., Hermsen, J., & Vanneman, R. (2004). Gender inequality at work. The American people: Census 2000. New York, NY: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  14. Department of Defense. (2010). Population representation in the military services. Retrieved November 7, 2011, from
  15. Furstenburg, F. F. (2010). On a new schedule: Transitions to adulthood and family change. The Future of Children, 20, 67–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Goldin, C. (2006). The quiet revolution that transformed women’s employment, education, and family. The American Economic Review, 96(2), 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hogan, P. F., & Seifert, R. F. (2010). Marriage and the military: Evidence that those who serve marry earlier and divorce earlier. Armed Forces & Society, 36, 420–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Holder, K. (2007). Exploring the veteran-nonveteran earnings differential in the 2005 American Community Survey. In Conference Paper, American Sociological Association Annual Meeting.Google Scholar
  19. Kalmijn, M., & Luijkx, M. (2005). Has the reciprocal relationship between employment and marriage changed for men? An analysis of the life histories of men born in the Netherlands between 1930 and 1970. Population Studies, 59(2), 211–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Karney, B. R., & Crown, J. S. (2007). Families under stress: An assessment of data, theory, and research on marriage and divorce in the military (MG-599-OSD, 2007). Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation. Retrieved October 5, 2011, from
  21. Kelty, R., Kleykamp, M., & Segal, D. R. (2010). The military and the transition to adulthood. The Future of Children, 20, 181–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kleykamp, M. (2009). A great place to start? Armed Forces & Society, 35, 266–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kleykamp, M. A. (2010). Women’s work after war (Upjohn Institute Working Paper No. 10-169). Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.Google Scholar
  24. Kleykamp, M. (2012). Labor market outcomes among veterans and military spouses. In J. M. Wilmoth & A. London (Eds.), Life course perspectives on military service. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  25. Lemieux, T. (2006). Increasing residual wage inequality: Composition effects, noisy data, or rising demand for skill? American Economic Review, 96, 461–498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Loughran, D. S., Martorell, P., Miller, T., & Klerman, J. A. (2011). The effect of military enlistment on earnings and education (TR-995-A, 2011). Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation. Retrieved October 2, 2011, from
  27. Lundquist, J. H., & Smith, H. L. (2005). Family formation among women in the U.S. military: Evidence from the NLSY. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mare, R. D., & Winship, C. (1984). The paradox of lessening racial inequality and joblessness among black youth: Enrollment, enlistment, and employment, 1964–1981. American Sociological Review, 49, 39–55.Google Scholar
  29. Nock, S. L. (1998). Marriage in men’s lives. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Oppenheimer, V. K. (1988). A theory of marriage timing. American Journal of Sociology, 94(3), 563–591.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Pettit, B., & Hook, J. (2005). The structure of women’s employment in comparative perspective. Social Forces, 84, 779–801.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Phillips, R. L., Andrisani, P. J., Daymont, T. N., & Gilroy, C. L. (1992). The economic returns to military service: Race-ethnic differences. Social Science Quarterly, 73, 340–359.Google Scholar
  33. Segal, M. (1986). The military and the family as greedy institutions. Armed Forces & Society, 13(1), 1–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sweeney, M. M. (2002). Two decades of family change: The shifting economic foundations of marriage. American Sociological Review, 67(1), 132–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Taniguchi, H., & Kaufman, G. (2005). Degree completion among nontraditional college students. Social Science Quarterly, 86(4), 912–927.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Teachman, J. (2007). Military service and educational attainment in the all-volunteer era. Sociology of Education, 80, 359–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Teachman, J. D., & Call, V. R. A. (1996). The effect of military service on educational, occupational, and income attainment. Social Science Research, 25, 1–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Teachman, J. D., & Polonko, K. A. (1988). Marriage, parenthood, and the college enrollment of men and women. Social Forces, 67(2), 512–523.Google Scholar
  39. Teachman, J., & Tedrow, L. (2007). Joining up: Did military service in the early all volunteer era affect subsequent civilian income? Social Science Research, 36, 1447–1474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. United States Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. (2010). Benefitting whom? For-profit education companies and the growth of military educational benefits. Retrieved November 7, 2011, from
  41. Waite, L. J. (1995). Does marriage matter? Demography, 32(4), 483–508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Waldman, E. (1983). Labor force statistics from a family perspective. Monthly Labor Review, 106(12), 16–20.Google Scholar
  43. Xie, Y. (1992). The socioeconomic status of young male veterans, 1964–1984. Social Science Quarterly, 73, 379–396.Google Scholar
  44. Xie, Y., Raymo, J. M., Goyette, K., & Thornton, A. (2003). Economic potential and entry into marriage and cohabitation. Demography, 40(2), 351–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

Personalised recommendations