Blue Star Families Study Reveals Impact of Military Spouse Employment Challenges

Blue Star Families Study Reveals Impact of Military Spouse Employment Challenges

Analysis estimates social cost of unemployment and underemployment at $710 million to $1.07 billion
Wednesday, May 25, 2016 - 12:00pm

CAMPAIGN: Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation

CONTENT: Press Release

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2016 /3BL Media/ – Blue Star Families has announced the results of a study putting a societal price tag on the pocketbook issues facing many military families – unemployment and underemployment of military spouses. Synthesizing research from a series of seminal studies on U.S. military families, the Social Cost Analysis of the Unemployment and Underemployment of Military Spouses found that adverse employment conditions among military spouses cost society approximately $710 million to $1.07 billion per year.

The research was conducted by the Sorenson Impact Center, a division of the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah, and funded by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. The estimated cost, which is primarily borne by the federal government, includes estimates of lost income tax, unemployment benefits and government-provided healthcare benefits.

Some troubling facts led Blue Star Families to commission the study. Military spouses face a staggering 18 percent unemployment rate compared to a national unemployment rate of 4.4 percent. More than half of those who do work face crippling underemployment – they are six times more likely to earn salaries below their education and experience level.

"The math is shocking, but it also shows the way forward,” said Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO and Founder of Blue Star Families. “If we work together to reverse the crippling employment trends facing military spouses, we will add money back to our economy. At the same time, we will improve the lives of military families and better the overall health of our all-volunteer armed forces.”

Congressman Sanford Bishop, co-chair of the Congressional Military Family Caucus, joined Blue Star Families in announcing the release of the study. “As this very relevant and timely report suggests, the inability of military spouses to find and maintain meaningful employment not only has a direct impact on the readiness of the force, but also represents a larger societal cost absorbed primarily by the federal government,” said Congressman Bishop. “The report’s findings are simply alarming. For military families and for our Nation, we must do more to support our military spouses in our work force.”

In a bipartisan display of support, House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers joined Bishop in announcing the study. “Our economy – and our nation – will be stronger when military families have the support they need and access to the resources they deserve,” she said. “I look forward to working with Rep. Bishop and our counterparts in the Senate Military Family Caucus to make sure they do.”

The Blue Star Families study also explored the personal consequences of military spouse employment challenges, which include negative effects on emotional well-being and health.

“The families and spouses of our active military are the cornerstone of their support network and it’s important to look at how military lifestyles impact the spouses’ well-being,” said John Damonti, President of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, the sponsor of the study. “We are proud to support the work of Blue Star Families in shining a light on this important issue.”

Blue Star Families is calling on public and private sector leaders to take action. “We are confident that the country can tackle this challenge in the same way we came together to reduce veteran unemployment several years ago,” Roth-Douquet stated. “To ensure military households have a fair shot at achieving economic security we need the involvement of all Americans.” 

Starbucks, a recognized leader on veteran employment issues, has committed to more closely examine this issue and increase its hiring of military spouses. “Spouses are the backbone of military families and invaluably influence and contribute to the lives of veterans and active duty service members,” said John Kelly, Senior Vice President of Global Responsibility, Community and Public Policy at Starbucks. “As the study clearly shows, ensuring they receive fruitful and rewarding opportunities to grow personally and professionally is critical to the success of not only themselves but the unique family structure that is a military or veteran family.”

To learn more about how you can help and to view the Social Cost Analysis of the Unemployment and Underemployment of Military Spouses study, visit


Blue Star Families is a national, nonprofit network of military spouses, children, parents and friends, as well as service members, veterans and civilians, dedicated to supporting, connecting and empowering military families. With our partners, Blue Star Families leverages data-driven insights to curate resources for military families, including career development tools, local community events for families, and caregiver support. Since its inception in 2009, Blue Star Families has engaged tens of thousands of volunteers and serves more than 1.5 million military family members. Blue Star Families also works directly with the Department of Defense and senior members of local, State and Federal government to bring the most important military family issues to light. With Blue Star Families, military families can find answers to their challenges anywhere they are. Visit for more information.

Sorenson Impact Center, housed at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School Business, is an applied academic institution dedicated to developing innovative and data-driven approaches to difficult social problems, like intergenerational poverty, chronic unemployment, and homelessness. An important focus area for the Center is developing multivariate social cost-benefit models that can help guide public, private, and philanthropic capital toward programs and strategies that benefit at-risk individuals and families and save society money in the long-run.

The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation promotes health equity and seeks to improve the health outcomes of populations disproportionately affected by serious diseases by strengthening health care worker capacity, integrating medical care and community-based supportive services, and mobilizing communities in the fight against disease. The Foundation engages partners to develop, execute, evaluate and promote innovative programs to help patients with lung cancer in the United States; HIV and comorbid diseases such as cervical and breast cancers, tuberculosis and mental health disorders in sub-Saharan Africa; hepatitis B and C in China and India; veterans’ mental health and well-being in the U.S.; and type 2 diabetes in the U.S., China and India. The Foundation also is working to build cancer nursing capacity in Central and Eastern Europe; and to expand access to specialty care for vulnerable populations with lung cancer, skin cancer or HIV in the U.S.