Socio-Economic Returns to Voluntary Armed Forces Service

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Routon, Philip Wesley
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Middle Tennessee State University
This dissertation has three chapters, each one originally being a separate analysis and paper. All three pertain to the socio-economic returns to having served in the United States Armed Forces during the early 21st century wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. By the time they were compiled, Chapter 1 was already published in the Journal of Labor Research. The second chapter is coauthored with Dr. Christian Brown, now an economist at the FDA, while the others are solo authored.
In Chapter 1, I estimate the effect of military service during these wars on civilian labor and educational outcomes. I find that veteran status increases civilian wages by approximately ten percent for minorities but has little or no effect on whites in this regard. Veterans of all demographic groups are found to be equally employable and equally as satisfied with their civilian occupation as non-veterans. For females and minorities, veteran status substantially increases the likelihood one attempts college. They are found to be more apt to pursue and obtain a two year degree instead of a four year degree.
With respect to their employment ambitions and perhaps prospects, the average military enlistee is likely to differ from the average American. In Chapter 2, we estimate the impact military service has on civilian wages across the wage distribution. For early 21st century veterans, we find that former military service grants civilian wage premiums at and below the median wage level but perhaps penalties at the high end of the wage distribution. For late 20th century veterans, who were mostly peacetime volunteers, we find evidence that veteran wage premiums were more constant across the wage distribution.
Military service adds additional challenges for married couples. In Chapter 3, I perform a trajectory analysis of the effect of military service on the likelihood of divorce. I find that these individuals were most likely to get a divorce in the first year following active duty service, with an increased probability of three to six percentage points. A within-racial group analysis shows that these effects are stronger for whites than minorities. I find that veterans who served during an earlier period (1980-1992) were unaffected, implying differing effects for wartime versus peacetime service.
Divorce, Educational Outcomes, Iraq War, Veteran, Veteran Wages, War in Afghanistan