Newswise — A new study of self-assessed job satisfaction, gender and ethnicity in the U.S. military finds that African-American and Latino men and women have higher job satisfaction than white men, says Jennifer Hickes Lundquist of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
In civilian society minorities consistently express lower job satisfaction. The survey, which covers active-duty personnel, is published in the June 2008 issue of the American Sociological Review.
Overall, African-American women have the highest levels of job satisfaction in the military, followed by African-American men, Latinas, Latinos and white women, Lundquist says. She says a key to the findings is that the military has more social and economic equality than the civilian job market, and that is why racial and ethnic minorities and women report higher job satisfaction. In her study, Lundquist notes that the U.S. military is viewed as a rare example of a workplace with little racial discrimination due to its enforced Equal Employment Opportunity workplace structure and ethnic diversity.
"Military service can be quite demanding, requiring lengthy family separations and allowing the employee far less freedom and autonomy than civilian jobs," Lundquist says. "It's not surprising then that white males tend to have lower job satisfaction in the military than in civilian jobs. But what's striking is that minorities express more satisfaction in military jobs than they do in civilian jobs. This makes a strong case for the continued position of disadvantage for minorities in many civilian jobs."
Lundquist also says the findings support the idea that inequalities and discrimination, not cultural differences or values, account for race and gender differences in job satisfaction in the civilian job market.
She says, "By including Latinos, I show that other minority groups clearly benefit from the meritocratic conditions of military life in similar ways as African Americans. Moreover, this is one of the few analyses of satisfaction to account for both gender and ethnicity, finding that black women and Latinas report extensive gains from military service relative to their white counterparts."
White women, Lundquist says, also appear to have more positive experiences in the military than white men, although the differences are not as extreme as seen in the other groups.
Lundquist based her findings on data drawn from the Pentagon's Survey of Active Duty Personnel (SADP). The data was collected by mail in 1999. The sample size was 30,489 people. She notes that a more recent SADP has just been made available, but she used the earlier one because it was taken prior to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and represents the experiences of active duty personnel in the military during peacetime.