Women Veterans Total 1 Million in First Half of 1986

By Roca, Maria L. | Monthly Labor Review, December 1986 | Go to article overview

Women Veterans Total 1 Million in First Half of 1986


Roca, Maria L., Monthly Labor Review


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. …

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Women Veterans Total 1 Million in First Half of 1986
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