Comparing Rates of Marriage and Divorce in Civilian, Military, and Veteran Populations

Michael S. Pollard, RAND
Benjamin Karney, University of California, Los Angeles
David Loughran, RAND

This study examines the effect of military service on marriage and divorce decisions. Prior work suggests that servicemembers are more likely to be married and less likely to be divorced than comparable civilians. An outstanding question is whether their higher marriage and lower divorce rates reflect unobserved differences between servicemembers and comparable civilians or whether they reflect something about military service itself. For example, the military may offer a relatively supportive environment for married individuals. Teasing apart these competing hypotheses is difficult with purely cross-sectional data. We utilize longitudinal data on the entire military population 1995-2002 in conjunction with retrospective NSFG-2002 and NLSY-79 longitudinal data to confirm that relative to comparable civilians: a) military men and women are more likely to marry, b) military men are less likely to divorce and women are more likely, and c) veterans are more prone to divorce than civilians once they leave the military.

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Presented in Poster Session 2