Rural Veteran Population Is Aging

The rural veteran population is declining in number and is growing older as a group, but the nation's veterans are still disproportionately rural, according to federal data. The Yonder celebrates Veterans Day with county-level information on veterans populations in rural and metro counties.


USDA Economic Research Service using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, March Supplements

The red bars show the number of rural veterans has declined from early 1990s while yellow line shows the rural veterans population is growing older as a group.

As the nation celebrates Veterans Day on November 11, federal data show that the number of rural veterans is decreasing and growing older.

But rural veterans still represent a disproportionate share of the overall veteran population.

This chart compiled by the USDA Economic Research shows two different sets of data. The red bars show the number of veterans who live in rural counties over the past 20 years. The values for the red bars are on the left axis of the chart.

The general pattern is one of decline, as veterans of eras like World War II, Korea and Vietnam have aged. But the number of rural veterans stabilized somewhat in recent years, as a new wave of veterans emerged from the wars in the Gulf region and Afghanistan.

Simultaneously, the percentage of veterans who were 65 years old and older has steadily increased. That’s the yellow line. The values for that line represent percent of rural veterans, and it’s on the right axis of the chart.

Information for this article was drawn from the Economic Research Service publication “Rural Veterans at a Glance,” published last year.

Veterans are disproportionately rural. About 19% of veterans live in rural or nonmetropolitan counties, while only about 16% of the overall U.S. population lives in these counties.

About 11% of rural residents are veterans, while nationally about 9% of the population are veterans.

The map below shows the concentration of veterans in U.S. counties. Counties with a higher percentage are shown in darker blue.

Click on the map to make it interactive, and then click on any county to see veterans data about that locality.

[imgcontainer][img:vetsmap2014-2.png][source]Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America — Economic Research Service

The map shows the percentage of the general population that are veterans aged 18 and older. Darker counties have higher percentages of veterans. Click the map to make it interactive and explore county-level data for both metropolitan and rural counties.