Black veterans typically have higher incomes than peers who never served in the military, but the advantage still isn’t enough to help them catch up financially with white Americans, according to a new analysis from the Rand Corp. released Wednesday.
“Military service is associated with a number of quality-of-life benefits for Black Americans, but it remains striking that Black Americans still do worse than white Americans across many outcomes we examined,” said Stephanie Brooks Holliday, a senior behavioral scientist at Rand and an author of the report.
In past decades, the report authors noted, the percentage of Black enlisted accessions into the military has exceeded the percentage of civilian Black Americans in the U.S. population. However, officials at Rand said little research exists on the impact of military service on minority groups’ quality of life.
Using census data, they found that Black veterans averaged more than $50,000 in annual income, compared to less than $40,000 for Black Americans who never served. That held true for both men and women.
Military service for white men in America had the opposite effect, decreasing their average annual income from about $80,000 for nonveterans to around $70,000 for veterans.
Among white women, military service was a positive for personal financial status, with white female veterans earning on average about $50,000 a year and nonveterans earning around $40,000.
Black veterans have higher rates of home ownership than civilian peers, just like other racial groups, the report notes. And marriage rates, divorce rates and health outcomes for Black veterans generally correspond with similar trends for white veterans (although Black vets are more likely to deal with high-blood pressure and less likely to deal with chronic pain).
Report authors said the study — and future research on the topic — can be used to direct new programming targeting specific groups within the veterans community.
“For example, the transition assistance program can highlight top cities in which to retire and guide Black service members into careers that are likely to provide higher incomes,” they wrote.
“Alternatively, programs can be created to support reintegration into civilian society by increasing independence, decreasing work-related limitations, or providing marital counseling to reduce the divorce rate. … Improving the health and well-being of Black people and other marginalized individuals should be an important priority toward a more just society.”
The full report is available online at the Rand web site.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.