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Women veterans total 1 million in first half of 1986.

Women veterans total 1 million in first half of 1986

A large portion of our male population has served in the Armed Forces of the United States, and there has long been a demand for information on their post-service adjustment to the civilian labor market. Data on male veterans of World War II, for example, were published regularly by BLS in the 1940's and 1950's,1 and population and labor force data on those who served during the Vietnam era have been published monthly since 1971. By contrast, women did not begin to serve in the Armed Forces to a significant degree until the mid-1970's. With this rise in service participation, there has been an increase in the number of women joining the veteran ranks. Beginning in January 1986, data on female veterans first became available from the Current Population Survey (CPS). This report discusses the current role of women in the military services and provides a summary of the new CPS data.

Women in the military. Women began active participation in the military during the early part of this century, with the establishment of the Army Nurse Corps in 1901 and the Navy Nurse Corps 7 years later. But, while they were recognized as military personnel, these women were denied equal rank, comparable pay, and veteran status.2 It was not until the second half of the century that they began to be recruited in large numbers for a wider range of jobs providing equal pay and full veterans' benefits.

Women in the military today find a broad range of job opportunities available to them. Though many continue to serve in such traditional specialties as health and administration, others work in such diverse fields as sonar and aircraft equipment repair, radio and air traffic control, law enforcement, and meteorology. While each service has its own regulations, the only occupational restrictions women generally encounter in the military are those associated with direct combat, and so very few serve in the infantry, on gun crews, and on combat ships.3

In March 1986, the Department of Defense reported that there were 215,000 women in the military, comprising approximately 10 percent of the total Armed Forces. In the post-Vietnam era (since 1975), the number of enlisted women has increased by 100,150 and the number of female officers by 17,200--or by 120 and 126 percent, respectively.4 Over this same period, the size of the total Armed Forces has changed little.

The new data. Given the small sample of female veterans in the CPS, the new data allow for little analysis of such issues as post-service employment and unemployment experience. Nevertheless, the accompanying tables provide limited labor force and population data for the average of the first 6 months of 1986; 6-month averages were used because they are somewhat more reliable than data for an individual month.

During the first half of 1986, the female veteran population averaged 1,030,000. (See table 1.) About 55 percent of these women participated in the labor force, the same proportion as for female nonveterans. The majority of female veterans served during a designated wartime period: almost 250,000 were Vietnam-era veterans, 70 percent of whom were between the ages of 30 and 39. (See table 2.) The labor force participation rate for these veterans, almost 80 percent, was higher than that of any age group of female nonveterans. The unemployed among this group averaged only 9,000 persons, yielding a jobless rate of about 5 percent. However, the sample on which such estimates are based is so small that any interpretation of these data is problematic.

About 450,000 women were veterans of other wars. These women were primarily involved in World War II and the Korean conflict and thus were mainly between the ages of 60 and 69. Because of this concentration in the older age groups, the labor force participation rate for "other' war veterans is relatively low, about 30 percent.

The last group identified through the survey was peacetime veterans, generally those who served between World War II and the Korean conflict, between the Korean conflict and Vietnam, and during the post-Vietnam era. In early 1986, there were 330,000 peacetime veterans, 71 percent of whom were labor force participants.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics will make the data on female veterans available upon request.

1 See, for example, Labor Force and Employment in 1959, Special Labor Force Report No. 4 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1960), p. A-11.

2 Survey of Female Veterans (Veterans' Administration, September 1985), p. 1.

3 Military Women in the Department of Defense (U.S. Department of Defense, April 1985), p. 47.

4 Data are from the U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Manpower Data Center.

Table: 1. Labor force status of women 18 years and over by veteran status, January-June 1986 averages

Table: 2. Age distribution of the female population 18 years and over by veteran status, January-June 1986 averages
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Author:Roca, Maria L.
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Dec 1, 1986
Previous Article:Sensitivity of BLS economic projections to exogenous variables.
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