Current and Future Demographics of the Veteran Population, 2014-2024

Published in: Population Review, Volume 57, Number 1 (2018), Pages 28-60. doi:10.1353/prv.2018.0002

Posted on RAND.org on August 17, 2018

by Ernesto F. L. Amaral, Michael Pollard, Joshua Mendelsohn, Matthew Cefalu

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We project the population of United States veterans between 2014 and 2024 using a cohort component population projection method that provides estimates by age, sex, race/ethnicity, service era and geographic location. We also analyzed distance of the projected veteran population to medical and health centers. Our research strategy integrates several methodological procedures, which can be applied to other subgroups of the American population in order to estimate future demographic trends at the local level. Baseline data for national projections came from the 2000 Census, which was the last census to collect information about veterans. We factored in estimates of mortality, adjusted for demographic characteristics, and added data from the U.S. Department of Defense on veterans entering the population after 2000. We estimated migration flows of veterans within the country using gravity models. Supplementary data came from American Community Surveys and accounted for a variety of factors, including age, sex, race/ethnicity, service era, population size of sending and receiving areas, and distance between areas. We project that the population of U.S. veterans will decrease by 19 percent over the next 10 years: from 21.6 million in 2014 to 17.5 million in 2024. The population will have a slightly higher proportion of older veterans. There will be modest changes in the demographic mix by sex and race/ethnicity. Between 2014 and 2024, the proportion of female veterans will increase 3 percentage points, from 8 to 11 percent. The share of non-Hispanic white males will decrease from 80 to 76 percent over the same period. The service era composition will change in the period. Veterans from the Vietnam conflict will decrease from 31 to 29 percent, while those from the Gulf War and Post-9/11 conflict will increase from 27 to 42 percent between 2014 and 2024. We estimate that, geographically, the veteran population will become more concentrated in urban areas, and the relative proportion of their population in the Ohio River Valley region will diminish.

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