Friday, November 13, 2015

What it means to be a US Veteran Today

Six easy graphs that tell a big story:

1. You represent a much small portion of the American people than veterans in the 1980s. The different lines represent different income quantiles with the 1st being the lowest income and the 4th being the highest income. We can see that veterans formerly had the highest representation among the top quartile. This has changed significantly since 2005 with the middle two quartiles representing the largest two bodies of veterans.

2. You currently have the highest risk of being classified as poor for any time period since 1980. Since 2005, the rate of poverty among veterans has nearly doubled. That makes you still better off than the general population but not by much.

 3. You are now less likely to own your own home than any time since 1980.

4. On a positive note, you are more likely to have completed high-school than at any other time in history.

5. On a not so positive note, as a veteran in 2010+ you are much less likely to have completed four or more years of college than those with no military service. Unfortunately the current world is not friendly to those without a college degree.

6. And to top it off. The strain of being a veteran has negatively affected your marriage. Starting in the 1990s and getting worse over time, the likelihood of being separated or divorced from your spouse is significantly higher than that of the no-military-service population.

So what is the takeaway?

Vote for a president you know is going to support your issues. 


In this quick analysis, I look at the census records of 470 thousand random adults between the ages of 18 and 65 sampled each of the years (1980,1990,2000,2005,2010,2013). The source of the data is from IPUMS-USA.

In order control the effect of disproportionate representations of ages across years each year sample has been reduced so that a constant proportions of all ages have been represented for each year.

PUMS-USA, University of Minnesota,

Find My Code Here


  1. Since serving in the military is not a uniform or normally distributed random variable, how did you adjust the estimates for under sampling the veteran population? The largest of the branches (the US Army) was approximately 1% the size of the US population about 5-6 years ago and the other branches combined only represent a small proportion of the size of the Army. There are also a lot of US Veterans that retain citizenship, but continue to live abroad (e.g., there are a lot of former military members who retired in Germany and continue to live there and work as civilians on the base) which may not be captured by the Census. Even though this was something quick and simple, I have a feeling that these estimates are likely to be biased upwards in several of the cases and the situation likely looks a bit more grim.

    1. Excellent points all. I wanted to primarily get a picture of what it looked like sampling from veterans vs non-veterans. I know there might be a lot of foriegn retirees but I suspect that they represent a small portion of the population I was looking at in this quick study since I intentionally confined the age range to be between 18-65.

      As for the army representing 1%, that sounds about right for my data since if the military represents 1% and there is a decent amount of turnover then 6-7% in current years might be a good representation.

    2. I know there is a pretty large representation of veterans among US territories as well:

  2. Be interesting to see this by age cohorts. 18-34, 35-44, 45-54,55-64 and 65+. There are probably some life stage effects playing a role in the data that are ignored by lumping them all together.