Army-Navy Pay Tops Most Civilians'
Unmarried Private's Income Equivalent to $3,600 Salary

Barron's National Business and Financial Weekly, April 24, 1944

By Malvern Hall Tillitt

Annual "net earned income" of the lowest-paid man in America's armed forces, if single, is more than that of the $3,600-a-year single man in civilian employment. And annual pay of $3,600 is more than the yearly earnings of many tellers in banks or bookkeepers in mercantile establishments or employees in investment houses or pharmacists or engineers in radio operation. It is twice the average pay received by employees of insurance concerns or public utilities or real estate companies. Indeed, Federal income-tax reports show that more than 90 percent of incomes earned by single persons throughout the United States fall below $3,600.

This may evoke a roar of incredulity from the ranks of men in military service drawing bottom pay and a chorus of derisive ha-ha's from $3,600-a-year civilian employees. But it is not to be roared or laughed down -- for it is a provable fact.

Of course, none of these figures is intended to prove that military service is anything but a sacrifice. Without even mentioning the danger to life or the acute discomforts suffered by our men at the front everywhere, every draftee also loses the companionship of his family and gives up several years of his civilian career.

For married men, the economic results of military service do not work out as favorably as they do for single men -- but in reality, they are to be figured as being much more favorable than is generally thought. The average-sized American family whose head has entered the armed forces may be enabled by contributions out of his pay and Government allowances to attain or maintain standards of living comparable with those of families dependent on civilian employment ranging from $1,600 to $3,400 a year. Even without counting on possible advancement of the entrant above the noncommissioned ratings, $3,400 a year is more than the annual income of 80 percent of all the families in the United States.

While, in some instances, the impact of military service of the husband on the family's economic status may be somewhat severe and may result in dislocation of family living habits, the family's economic condition will in many cases be improved.

Unmarried Buck Private May "Net" $420

Let's consider the case of the single man and start with proof of the opening statement. The lowest pay in the Army is the $50 a month; or $600 a year, received by the buck private, while in service within the bounds of the United States. The man may have given up a $3,600-a-year civilian job on entering military service. And, from the figures alone, he may apparently be taking a loss of $3,000 a year.

On reduction of earnings to "net income," the comparison goes into reverse. This fact traces mainly to the major items of subsistence which are provided for men and noncommissioned officers in military service but for which the civilian must pay out of his pocket. In addition, civilians have much higher income taxes to reckon with.

Of course, Army pay is not entirely velvet. Personnel below the commissioned ratings must take care of a number of minor needs and wants out of earnings. On the basis of itemized statements obtained in interviews with selectees In training and oldtimers in service, and with privates, corporals, and sergeants, expenditures out of pocket run at about the same level for men and noncommissioned officers.

Passing by the spendthrift and the tight-wad, and figuring by the month for ordinary spenders, these expenditures include two 50-cent haircuts by barber, $1.50 for laundry, $1.50 for tailor service (pressing and dry-cleaning), -$1.40 for movies, $3 for tobacco, 60 cents for soap, tooth paste, and razor blades, and $4 for other incidentals purchased at commissary or post exchange or outside camp limits. Miscellaneous outlays through the year -- for civilian shoes and repairs, garrison cap, shoe polish, metal polish, and other articles -- may run to $24, or an average of $2 a month.

The enumerated expenditures out of pay, including miscellaneous expenses, add up to $15 a month, or $180 a year -- which leaves the buck private in service within the bounds of the United States with an annual remainder of $420. And this is the measure of his "net" annual income, if he has no other revenues, for Federal income taxes do not apply to Incomes of men in military service below $1,500 -- and above that the serviceman also has his personal exemptions.

Income Compared on Basis of Normal Living

These expenditures do not include the cost of sprees during excursions out of camp on leave, if any, or lavish entertainment of girl friends or losses at "Georgia dominoes." The buck private's net income, as here worked out, simply represents the yearly remainder of earnings during normal training camp life.

Let's compare civilian "net income." Statistics, compiled by the Joint Committee on Internal Revenue for the House Ways and Means Committee in the course of hearings preliminary to enactment of the individual income rates now in effect, show average living cost of single consumers by income groups. The statistics were based on data obtained by exhaustive questioning of thousands of wage-or-salary earners and others with incomes in cities, villages, and rural sections strewn through 30 States.

The expenditures are itemized under 14 heads -- food, housing, clothing, medical care, tobacco, personal care, recreation, automobile, transportation other than auto, furnishings, household operation, reading, education, and other living expenses. At present, the automobile item may be largely eliminated.

A very recent publication by the National Industrial Conference Board, dealing with current changes in cost of food, housing, fuel, and light, clothing and sundries, shows an increase of 11.5 percent in cost of living since the statistics were presented to the House Ways and Means Committee. This advance raises the total of average living costs of single persons with income of $3,600 a year to $2;508 currently. Expenditures for food, housing, clothing, and medical care -- which are provided without charge for men and noncommissioned officers in the Army -- represents $1,183 of this total.

The items of civilian outlay here figured do not include Saturday night binges or orchid pitched entertainment at night clubs or losses at fast play or slow horses.

TABLE 1. Single men

  Net annual earnings - after deduction of normal expenditures out of pay
Equivalent annual earnings in civilian employment - after deduction of cost of living and Federal income taxes
  In service within US In foreign service
Buck private $420 $540.00 $3,600+
Private first class and seaman second class 468 597.60 3,600
Corporal and seaman first class 612 770.40 4,000
Sergeant (or sergeant-technician), and petty officer third class 766 943.20 4,500
Staff sergeant and petty officer second class 972  1,202.40 4,800
First (or top) sergeant and petty officer first class 1,188 1,461.60 5,200
Master sergeant or chief petty officer 1,476 1,807.20  6,000

TABLE II Married men


Annual receipts of average American serviceman's family (including contributions by husband and allowances by the Government)

Attainable standards
of living match those maintained by American family- (average size) with annual earnings from civilian employment as listed below


In service within United States

In foreign service

Family (wife and two children) of buck private $1,356 $1,476 $1,600
Private first class or seaman second class 1,404 1,534 1,600+
Corporal and seaman first class 1,548 1,766 2,000
Sergeant (or sergeant-technician), and petty officer third class 1,692 1,879 2,200
Staff sergeant and petty officer second class 1,908 2,138 2,700
First (or top) sergeant and petty officer first class 2,124 2,398 2,900
Master sergeant or chief petty officer 2,412 2,743 3,400


Of course, the $3,600-a-year man in civilian employment is not under statutory compulsion to spend $2,508 out of earnings in his living. According to the data that were placed before the House Ways and Means Committee and National Industrial Conference Board reports, the annual living cost of $1,200-a-year men is about $1,100 And the $3,000-a-year man could possibly put a "Stop order" on his cost of living at that figure. But, as the officially compiled statistics show, he doesn't. Under the law of life as it is generally lived by income earners, increase in cost of living accompanies increase in earnings. When salaries or wages are raised, income earners move into better quarters, eat at higher priced restaurants, dress more expensively, and spend more on personal care and amusements.

The average living expenditures reduce the $3,600 a-year income to $1,092. Out of this must be paid Federal income and victory taxes, that cut it down to $343 - which is $77 less than the "net" earnings of the buck Private.

If the $3,600-a-year civilian employee is a taxpayer in New York or in any of the other commonwealths where personal income taxes are in effect, his net annual income shrivels further.

Now assume that the $3,600-a-year civilian employee and the buck private have fathers and mothers dependent upon them for support and are accordingly to be counted as heads of families. Starting at scratch on paper - with deductions permitted in Federal income tax computation figured in the $3,600-a-year man may have a reserve of about $575 to draw on for such purpose. But this figure falls much below the measure of resources available to tile Army private for support of his parents.

Family Allowances Increase With Advance In Rank

By contributing $22 a month via deduction from his pay, the buck private can obtain an income-tax exempt Government allowance of $46 a month for his parents. The contribution and allowance together amount to $316 a year. And, after deduction of his contribution and his normal expenditures out of pocket, he still has a $156 remainder of his annual pay for such application; that is, the Army private's contributions out of pay and Government allowances may make up a total in resources of $972 a year available for the benefit of his parents, as compared with the $3,600-a-year civilian employee's parent-supporting reserve of $573. If the private sees foreign service, as he very likely will, his net earnings will be increased by $120 a year -- or to $540.

In the Navy, the "net earnings" story is practically the same as in the Army. In the first chapter, it is even a shade more attractive. While the bottom pay in the two services is $50 a month, the lowest-paid man in the Army, the buck private, may remain for years in that rank. The lowest paid man in the Navy, the apprentice seaman, automatically advances to seaman second class with $54 -- month pay after 2 months of training. It is not until he is promoted to private first class, with $54-a-month pay, that the serviceman, in the Army stands shoulder to shoulder with the lowest-paid Navy man in annual earnings.

As in the Army, major items of subsistence are provided for men and non-commissioned officers during service in the Navy. But, also as in the Army, there are divers needs and wants of minor dimensions which must be taken care of out of earnings. While those items of expenditure may differ in some details from corresponding expenditures of servicemen in the Army, according to statements obtained from seamen and petty officers, they run to about the same total -- that is, $15 a month.

With these expenditures out of earnings deducted, the net annual income of the seaman second class and the private first class in service at stations in the United States shows at $468. In foreign service, the net earnings would be increased to $597.60. And, if there are dependent parents, contributions by the Government would raise the parent-supporting resources of the seaman second class and the private first class from $972 a year to an annual total of $1,149 -- nearly twice the resources of the $3,600-a-year civilian employee for such purpose.

Above the rank of private first class and seaman second class, promotions in the two services below commissioned, ratings (with accompanying increased pay during service at stations within the United States are in the following sequence:


  Per month Annual
Corporal and seaman first class $66 $792
Sergeant (or sergeant technician), and petty officer third class 78 936
Staff sergeant and petty officer second class 96 1,152
First (or top) sergeant and petty officer first class 114 1,368
Master sergeant or chief petty officer 138 1,656

Deducting normal expenditures out of pay, and figuring on the basis of the official statistics before the House Ways and Means Committee on National Industrial Conference Board reports, the net annual earnings of men with those ratings,worked out in terms of civilian income or earnings, are shown in table I. In foreign service, pay is raised 20 percent.

Opportunity for increase of pay is also offered by a number of specialized divisions in the two services -- including aviation, paratroop activities, and submarine operation.

For all single men in service -- with rank below commissioned rating -- allowances for dependent parents ($46 a month added by the Government to $22 deduction from monthly pay making up a total of $816 a year) are available as in the case of the buck private. And with allowances figured in, as ratings are advanced, parent-supporting resources climb higher in comparison with such resources from civilian earnings or income.

Government allowances for dependent brothers and sisters are also available. As was noted with reference to allowances for parents, these and all other Government allowances for dependents are income-tax exempt.

The married serviceman's case is basically different from that of the single man. If he is childless, his problem is more difficult -- but it is materially eased by Government allowance. If he has children, Government allowances become a major problem-solving factor. The schedule of Government allowances for dependents of married men follows:

To $22 deducted from monthly pay or to $264 deducted from annual pay, the. Government adds allowances that make up the following "yields" to dependents:

To wife (no child), $50; to wife and one child, $80; to child (no wife), $42; to each additional child, $20. There are also qualified allowances, for divorced wives without or with children. If a family includes dependents in the two classifications -- the wife-and-children class and the parents-brothers-and-sisters class -- the serviceman may obtain the advantages of both schedules of allowances by contributing an additional $5 a month (via deduction) out of his pay.

For a wife without children, the buck private may contribute $22 of hIs monthly pay and obtain a Government allowance of $28 a month with a yield of $50 a month. And to that sum he can add the remaining. $13 a mouth out of his pay (after- deduction of normal expenditures). The resulting receipts of the buck private's wife would be $756 a year. If the buck private sees foreign service, the wife's receipts may run to $876 a year.

Applying the formula worked out for the wife of the buck private to higher ratings, the yields to wives with no children, compared with civilian earnings or incomes of single persons, may be worked out as follows:


  Annual "yield" during service Percent of single persons in United States with comparable or smaller incomes
  In United States Foreign
Wife (with no children) of private first class or seaman second class $804 $934 30
Corporal and seaman first class 948 1,106 40
Sergeant (or sergeant technician), and petty officer third class 1,192 1,379 50
Staff sergeant and petty officer second class 1,308 1,538 60
First (or top) sergeant and petty officer first class 1,524 1,898 70
Master sergeant or chief petty officer 1,712 2,043 80


Also, the childless wife may supplement contributions by the husband and Government allowance by her own earnings.

Now take an average American family-husband, wife, and two children. On entrance into the Army as a buck private, the husband can contribute $22 out of his pay and obtain Government allowances for his family making up a yield of $100 a month, or $1,200 a year. If the husband turns over the remaining $13 of his monthly pay (after deducting the contributed $22 and normal, monthly expenditures amounting to $15), the receipts of his family may be raised to $1,356 -- and, if he sees foreign service, his family's receipts may be increased to $1,476 a year.

On the basis of expenditures for living by average families in different income groups -- with deductions attributable to absence of the husband -- the receipts of the buck private's family (average American) will enable its members to live according to standards prevailing among families with annual civilian earnings or income of $1,600. This tops the earnings or incomes of more than 50 percent of all the families in the country. And, during foreign service, his family's receipts may be measurably increased. Table II carries the comparison up through noncommissioned ratings.

The married entrant into military service may be assured that his wife and children will be enabled to live wholesomely during his absence. And, in a great number of cases, families of men in service (average American size) will be enabled by their receipts to attain higher standards of living than those maintained before the husband's enrollment in the armed forces. It may be added that, if emergency needs arise (surgical operations, etc.), a number of relief organizations and agencies are in readiness to provide aid. Also, the great majority of soldiers and sailors, wishing to provide financial protection for their, families, have taken advantage of low-cost Government life insurance, Servicemen are able, at rates much lower than those available to civilians, to provide up to $10,000 in life insurance for their beneficiaries in case of death.

Benefits To Merchant Seamen: Hearings Before the Committee on the Merchant Marine and Fisheries, House Of Representatives, Seventy-Ninth Congress: First Session on H. R. 2346: A Bill To Provide Aid for the Readjustment in Civilian Life of Those Persons Who Rendered War Service in the United States Merchant Marine During World War II, and to Provide Aid for the Families of Deceased War-Service Merchant Seamen
H. R. 2180: A Bill to Provide Federal Government Aid for the Re-adjustment in Civilian Life of World War I and World War II Merchant Marine Veterans
H. R. 2449: A Bill to Amend Title III of The Merchant Marine Act, 1936, as amended, to Provide Certain Rights for Members of the Merchant Marine Serving During World War I
H. R. 3500: A Bill to Extend The War-Risk Insurance On Seamen to Cover Death from any Marine Risk, and for other purposes
PART I: October 18 and 19, 1945

Salary Comparison
Rumors, Lies and Innuendos