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Memorial Day: A Look at Veterans in America Today

NPS/Andersonville National Historic Site. Flags decorate the graves in Section E of the Andersonville National Cemetery

Guest blog post by Melissa Chiu, Chief of the Industry and Occupation Statistics Branch, U.S. Census Bureau

As we honor those soldiers who have given their lives to their country this Memorial Day, we can also take the opportunity to better understand America’s veterans. The American Community Survey provides a profile of our 21.8 million veterans.

So, who are our veterans in America? U.S. veterans are made up of every gender, race, ethnicity and almost every age group. There were more women veterans in 2010 than twenty years ago; this group has grown by 3 percentage points since 1980 to 1.6 million in 2010.  It is important to recognize that women constitute 19 percent of veterans in the age group 18 to 34.  There were 9 million veterans 65 and older in 2010 and, at the other end of the age spectrum, 1.7 million were younger than 35.

We find that veterans age 18 to 34 are more racially and ethnically diverse than older veterans. Non-Hispanic whites account for 17.5 million veterans. In addition there were 2.4 million black veterans, 1.2 million Hispanics, 265,000 Asians, 157,000 American Indians or Alaska Natives and 28,000 Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders in 2010.

Understandably, the number of veterans that served during World War II has decreased to 2.1 million and the number of Vietnam-era veterans stands at 7.6 million, about thirty-five percent of all living veterans.

The American Community Survey shows that overall, veterans and non-veterans participate in the labor force at similar rates, but when you look at various age groups younger veterans participate at higher levels than younger non-veteran groups. Both veterans and non-veterans are employed overwhelmingly in private for profit industries, but veterans are employed in government (local, state and federal) at a higher rate than non-veterans.
An injury or illness incurred or aggravated during active military service is noted as a service-connected disability and, among veterans in 2010, 1 in 6, about 3.4 million, have a service-connected disability.

Memorial Day is a time to reflect on what veterans have done for our country and how they are living today. At the Census Bureau, we measure statistics about veterans, an important group in our society. This morning, I discussed these statistics, on C-SPAN’s America By the Numbers on Washington Journal. I invite you to review the veteran graphs and watch the segment to learn more about our nation’s veterans.  For more on veterans’ disability, income, homeownership, poverty status, etc., please visit:

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