Missing Perspectives: Black & African Americans in the Military—From Service to Civilian Life (2022)

black and african american in the military cover

To date, existing research related to the experiences of Black and African American service members, veterans, and military families has been either limited or lacking entirely. This data brief addresses a critical gap in understanding their experiences, particularly in the transition from the military to civilian life. The information and data in this document are from various sources centered on military life, transition, employment, entrepreneurship, and higher education.

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A Few Key Takeaways

  • Over 350,000 Black and African American active duty and select reserve members
  • Over 2.4 million Black and African American veterans in the U.S

    —Of all Post-9/11 veterans, 17% are Black and African American (this is higher compared to the 13% of the nonveteran counterparts)

Top Motivations for Military Service

Educational benefits
Pursue new experiences, adventures, or travel
Career opportunities

Top Skills & Attributes Strengthened by Military Service

Work ethic/discipline
Leadership and management skills

Was military service worth it?

0 %
89% of Black and African American service members reported that joining the military was a good decision.

*However, Black and African American active-duty respondents reported:
– 56% have considered “racial/ethnic discrimination” in their decision-making process
– 53% have “concerns about safety regarding base/ installation preferences due to my (or my family member’s) racial/ethnic identity”

0 %
93% felt pride from their accomplishments during service.

*However, 45% believe their racial/ethnic identity has hurt their ability to get ahead at work

Services or Programs Used or Needed

0 %
Employment & Career Development
0 %
Community Service
0 %
Employment Transition Difficulty
  • 22% of Black and African American veteran respondents reported needing EMPLOYMENT & CAREER DEVELOPMENT (e.g., job training, job placement services, resume writing, starting a business) support but couldn’t get access
  • 20% of Black and African American veteran respondents reported needing COMMUNITY SERVICE (e.g., finding volunteer opportunities, social support) support but couldn’t get access
  • Top reasons for not using services centered around stigma and navigation
  • 59% of Black and African American veteran respondents characterized their employment transition as difficult or very difficult


0 %
In 2021, 5% of Black and African American veterans were unemployed

In 2019, $50,000 median earnings for Black and African American veteran
{HIGHER compared to the total median of the US population who earn about $42,600; LOWER compared to non-minority veteran counterparts who earn about $31,400}

Female Black and African American military spouses are 3Xs more likely to be unemployed, compared to civilian counterparts and earn 54% less than the total population ($24,500 compared to $42,600)


Entrepreneurship helped them find a purpose after military
Consider themselves social entrepreneurs
Have difficulty navigating the resources in their local community

Education Attainment

In 2020, Black and African American post 9/11 veterans have achieved:

Bachelor's Degree or Higher


Some College of Associate Degree


High School Degree


Less Than High School Degree


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