Happy Veterans Day!

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Written by: Tom Mesenbourg, Acting Director

This Sunday we celebrate all of the brave men and women who have served our country. I had the honor to serve in the U.S. Army, and I understand the sacrifices you have endured and the contributions you have made to our country. We salute you and thank you for your service. I hope you have a happy Veterans Day.

As we celebrate our veterans, we also can learn more about them. Our American Community Survey (ACS) statistics provide a detailed portrait of those who served. Veterans Day provides an opportunity to learn more about these American heroes.

According to 2011 ACS statistics, there were 21.5 million veterans of the U.S. military, of whom 1.6 million were women. Today’s veterans are most likely to have served during the Vietnam era with 7.5 million serving, compared with the Gulf War era (from Aug. 2, 1990 to the present) with 5.1 million, World War II (1941-1945) with 1.8 million and the Korean War (1950-1953) with 2.4 million. An estimated 5.4 million served in peacetime only.

In addition to when they served, we also know the demographic characteristics of our veterans. In 2011, about 43 percent (9.2 million) of veterans were age 65 and older. At the other end of the age spectrum, about 8 percent (1.8 million) of veterans were younger than 35. About 80 percent of veterans were white, non-Hispanic, and about 7 percent were women.

In 2011, there were 3.5 million veterans with a service-connected disability, which is an injury or illness incurred or aggravated during active military service. Of this number, more than 800,000 veterans had a rating of 70 percent or higher. Severity of one’s disability is scaled from 0 to 100 percent and eligibility for compensation depends on one’s rating.

Statistics from our Survey of Business Owners show the valuable roles that veteran entrepreneurs and their businesses have played within the U.S. economy. In 2007, the latest year for which the survey was conducted, veterans owned an estimated 2.4 million or 9 percent of all 27.1 million nonfarm businesses nationwide.

Veteran entrepreneurs and their businesses have also experienced longevity. Seventy-five percent of veteran business owners were reported to be age 55 or older, compared with 37 percent of all business owners. Fifty-six percent of veteran-owned businesses with paid employees reported that their firm was originally established before 1990, compared with 39 percent of all employer respondent firms.

In addition, 8 percent of veteran owners were reported to be disabled as the result of injury incurred or aggravated during military service.

In addition, we can learn from the American Community Survey that 9.1 million (75 percent) of veterans age 18 to 64 were in the labor force in 2011. Veterans’ annual median income in 2011 was $35,821 compared with $25,811 for the population as a whole, where income includes not only wages and self-employment, but also Social Security, retirement pensions, VA payments, and other forms of income.

When we look at education, we see that 26.3 percent of veterans 25 and older had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2011. In comparison, 28.5 percent of the total population had a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The Census Bureau’s statistics on veterans are used for a variety of purposes. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) uses information, such as age and disability status, from the ACS for planning purposes. By looking at these statistics for states and local communities, the VA can estimate the demand for medical services and nursing home care for veterans. Statistics about veteran status are used to allocate funds to states and local areas for employment and job training programs for veterans, as well as assess compliance with laws prohibiting employment discrimination.

Private organizations use these statistics to provide services and products to veterans, such as financial products oriented toward veterans. Overall, statistics on veterans provide valuable insight into who the nation’s heroes are and how the nation may continue to serve their needs after their service to the country.

To learn more about our nation’s veterans, please visit our veterans data main page.

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