Pay Attention, Stephen King; New Study: Minorities, Women Satisfied in Military Jobs

June 12th, 2008 6:56 PM

Here's something Stephen King might want to read before scoffing at military service.

A new study shows women and minorities are more satisfied in general with their jobs than white men in the military and that military women are generally much more positive about their career and career prospects than their civilian counterparts, according to a new study.

Newsweek's Sarah Kliff has the story in a Web exclusive (emphasis mine):

Any list of the best places to work is sure to include cool favorites like Google. The U.S. military? The sacrifices and risks required of its members seem to make it an unlikely pick. But new research suggests that it may well belong on such a list, particularly for minorities and women. The members of those two demographics in the military consistently rate their jobs as more satisfying than white males do, according to new research in this month's American Sociological Review. Much like Manning's military experience, the study of over 30,000 active duty personnel suggests that the armed forces' social hierarchy-explicitly based on rank-overrides many of the racial or gender biases in civil society, which tend to act as barriers for women and minorities in career advancement.

"Whites are far and away the least satisfied [in the military]," says Jennifer Hickes Lundquist, a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts and the study author. "Black females tend to be the most satisfied. It's a direct opposite and complete reversal of what we know about civilian job satisfaction."

In civilian society African-Americans generally express higher dissatisfaction with their jobs than their white counterparts and are less committed. But Lundquist's study of 30,000 active-duty personnel found that those norms are largely flipped in the military. She looked at five measurements of career satisfaction, including overall quality of life and opportunities for advancement, and found African-American women to be the most positive and satisfied with their jobs, followed by African-American men, Latinas, Latinos and white women. White men are the least satisfied with their military careers, rating their satisfaction and overall happiness with their jobs much lower.

"It's not that the military environment treats white males less fairly; it's simply that, compared to their peers in civilian society, white males lose many of the advantages that they had," Lundquist says. "There's a relative deprivation when you compare to satisfaction of peers outside of the military."

The same leveling effect among ethnic minorities also occurred across genders, although that was a bit more challenging to explain. A third of the women in the military say they have been sexually harassed, according to a recent Pentagon survey, and women in male-dominated specialties consistently rank their job satisfaction lower than those largely occupied by women. But female job satisfaction ratings seemed largely unaffected by these factors. Among each ethnicity that Lundquist studied, the women consistently had higher levels of job satisfaction than the males.