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Patterns of Enlisted Compensation

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Few would think that compensation varies much among different members of the military who have the same years of service. After all, basic pay is determined by a pay table common to all services, varying only by rank and years of service. But military pay is complex, consisting of over 70 different pays and entitlements, some of which are cash payments and some of which are in-kind transfers. This complexity can produce very different levels of pay, both across and within services, for people who, by most measures, appear similar. Given the power that compensation can have as a management tool, it is important for DoD policymakers to understand the components of military pay and where and how they vary. To date, no empirical studies have been conducted to measure the difference in total compensation by individual characteristics. This study begins to fill this gap by providing a baseline description of how pay varies for enlisted members by such individual characteristics as gender, race, occupation, family composition, and Armed Forces Qualification Test AFQT score. We did not model the sources of the relationships between compensation and individual characteristics. Instead, we documented the patterns of enlisted compensation. Nor did we perform a behavioral analysis of these patterns-that is, we do not explain why the patterns we observed exist. Rather, our documentation of the patterns is intended to be a baseline description that can serve to identify areas in which future behavioral analysis would be especially fruitful.

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  • Economics and Cost Analysis
  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations

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