WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. women veterans of the post-9/11 era are far more likely to have seen combat than their predecessors and are more critical of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than male counterparts, according to a study released on Thursday.
Among living veterans from any era, only 15 percent of women served in combat, compared with 35 percent of men, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.
Since the 1990s, with a change in policies and the decade-long wars, combat exposure has risen from 7 percent among pre-1990 female veterans to 24 percent of female veterans who have served since 1990.
But while 19 percent of servicemen are in the infantry, guncrews or are seamen, only 3 percent of servicewomen are in these roles. Active-duty women are concentrated in administrative and medical positions, the study said.
Women are banned from serving in ground units where combat is the main role, but Defense Department policies that began in the 1990s allowed women to serve in more combat-related roles, such as flying in combat aircraft and serving aboard combat ships.
Demographically, 31 percent of active-duty women are black compared with only 16 percent of men. A smaller share of active-duty women than men are white, 53 percent for women against 71 percent for men.
Military women are less likely than their male counterparts to be married (46 percent vs 58 percent). Women who marry are much more likely than men to wed someone who is also in the active-duty military, by 48 percent to 7 percent.
Sixty-three percent of women veterans say the Iraq war was not worth fighting and 54 percent say Afghanistan has not been worth it. Among male veterans, the results are 47 percent and 39 percent, respectively.
Among the general public, there are no significant differences by sex in the share who say the post-9/11 wars were not worth fighting.
Since 1973, when the United States military ended conscription, the number of active-duty enlisted women has grown from about 42,000 to 167,000.
Since the enlisted force has shrunk substantially over the same period, women’s share in the enlisted military has increased to 14 percent from 2 percent.
The report was based on data from the Department of Defense and on surveys by the Pew Research Center and the Census Bureau.
Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Jerry Norton