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Thank You for Your Service? Diverging Pathways for People of Color within the Armed Forces


Black and Latino men, particularly in metropolitan areas, are heavily recruited into military service, often told that enlisting in the armed forces will provide the means for both social and economic mobility. While all military enlistees experience relatively equal access to opportunities and resources while in the service, questions remain as to how racial and ethnic minority veterans, particularly those of the Global War on Terror, fare after leaving the service. This dissertation examines two life processes—the job application process and remarriage—to examine how such outcomes might differ for minority veterans. Chapter 2 and 3 use results from a conjoint survey experiment administered to a nationally representative sample of hiring authorities to examine how racial minority veterans are perceived by employers in the low-wage labor market. Chapter 2 focuses on Black men, and specifically compares military service to the educational credential of an associate degree. In Chapter 3, the focus shifts to Latino veterans, further exploring how military service not only affects employers’ perceptions of Latinos, but also how such perceptions might change based on one’s place of birth. The results of the survey experiment show that military veterans experience a premium in the job application process and are more likely to be recommended for a follow-on interview; this premium is greatest for some groups that are traditionally the most disadvantaged in the application process, such as immigrants and GED holders. Chapter 4 turns its attention to the family, and examines the marital transition of remarriage, an outcome unexplored in previous work. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, I find that the gap in remarriage rates found between Black and White men in the United States disappears in the military context. Such results suggest that socioeconomic prospects are the culprit for differences in remarriage rates found at large, and that the relatively equal socioeconomic standing of service members, irrespective of race and ethnicity, help promote remarriage rates. Taken together, my research helps update and expand our understanding of the impact of military service on the life course specifically for racial and ethnic minorities, and what these differences might imply for social stratification and inequality.

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