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History and Evolution of Veteran Status Questions

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The first data on veterans to be published by the U.S. government were based on an inquiry in the 1840 census which asked the name, age, and place of residence of pensioners of the Revolutionary War. Prior to the Civil War, most interest in the number of veterans was for pension purposes. It was the expansion of veterans benefits in the early 1900s and the huge influx of veterans at the end of WWII that increased the importance of decennial census data on veterans. Veterans’ questions have appeared on every decennial census form since 1910, with the exception of 1920. The 1940 decennial census was the first year that included a statistical sample in which a percentage of the population received a longer, more detailed census form. From 1940 until the 2000 census, questions of veterans status and period of service were included on the long form. The 1980 decennial census marked the first time that information on women veterans had ever been gathered in a national survey. At the time of the 1980 census, women made up less than 3 percent of the total veteran population; today they make up about 8 percent.

Another change in 1980 was the modification of the veteran status question to indicate that its intended goal was to count only veterans who had served on “active duty.” It specifically excluded those who served only in the National Guard or Reserves. The periods of military service question was also expanded to include the Vietnam and post-Vietnam eras. The veteran status question was revised again in 1990 by expanding the question to separate current active duty, past active duty, service in the National Guard or Reserves only, and no military service. This change was meant to lessen confusion for the respondent.

Starting with Census 2010, veteran status is no longer collected on the decennial census questionnaire, except in the Island Areas.

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau collects demographic, social, and economic data on veterans of the Armed Forces using three national surveys: American Community Survey (ACS), Current Population Survey (CPS), and Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). The Survey of Business Owners (SBO) provides the only comprehensive, regularly collected source of information on selected economic and demographic characteristics for businesses and business owners by gender, ethnicity, race, and veteran status.

American Community Survey (ACS)

The ACS is a continuous survey sent to three million household addresses and group quarters on a rotating basis. It is conducted in Puerto Rico as the Puerto Rico Community Survey.

In 1995, the U.S. Census Bureau began the process of changing the means of obtaining the demographic, housing, social, and economic information from the census long form to the ACS. Testing began in 1996, and the ACS program began producing test data in 2000, 2001, and 2002. The full implementation started in 2005, and the first 3-year estimates (from 2005-2008) were available at the end of the 2008. The first 5-year estimates, based on ACS data collected from 2005 through 2009, were released in 2010.

In 2013, the wording of the veteran status question was modified to simplify the question and to generate more reliable and accurate estimates of veterans. The lead-in “yes” and “no” to the response options were removed and the categories reordered. The text instructions to the question were also removed.

The military period of service categories have evolved since 2000. Changes were made in 2003 when the “April 1995 or later” category was changed to “September 2001 or later” to reflect the era that began after the events of September 11, 2001. Additional changes were made to reflect the revised dates of war-time periods. In 2013, the military period of service categories were again changed to collapse several peacetime periods that had no practical significance or legal basis, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

New content was added to the ACS questionnaire in 2008. The objective of including a question on service-connected disability ratings was to enable the VA to cross-classify information on this topic by other demographic characteristics—such as income—to guide them in estimating the demand for health care services.

The current ACS has four main questions related to veterans: (1) if the person ever served in the Armed Forces and, if so, (2) in which periods they served, (3) if they have a VA service-connected disability rating and, if so, (4) the disability rating.

Current Population Survey (CPS)

The Current Population Survey (CPS) is a monthly survey of about 50,000 households that is sponsored jointly by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The survey has been conducted since 1940.

The CPS is the primary source of information on the labor force characteristics of the United States, including the national unemployment rate. To be eligible for participation in the CPS, individuals must be 15 years and older, not currently in the Armed Forces, and not currently living in an institution such as a prison, long term care hospital, or nursing home.

Questions pertaining to veterans have been included in the CPS since the 1940s, however the CPS did not begin to collect data on the veteran status of women until 1984. The CPS asks respondents if they have ever served in the Armed Forces and, if so, in which periods they served.

The Census Bureau also conducts an annual CPS supplement on veterans (prior to 2009 it was a biannual supplement). All veterans 17 years and older are asked questions pertaining to topics such as specific types of service in Vietnam; service-connected disability status, ratings, and compensation; and use of workforce training and employment services.

Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP)

The Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) is designed as a continuous series of national panels with sample sizes ranging from 14,000 to 36,700 interviewed households. The first SIPP panel began in 1983. The purpose of the SIPP is to collect the source and amount of income, labor force information, program participation and eligibility data, and general demographic characteristics in order to: (1) measure the effectiveness of federal, state, and local programs and (2) provide statistics on the economic well-being of the country. Although the SIPP design allows for both longitudinal and cross-sectional data analysis, it is meant primarily to support longitudinal studies.

Veteran status questions have been asked of everyone 15 years and older since the 1983 panel of the SIPP. The SIPP asks respondents if they have ever served in the Armed Forces and, if so, in which periods they served.

Survey of Business Owners (SBO)

The Survey of Business Owners (SBO) includes all nonfarm businesses filing Internal Revenue Service tax forms as individual proprietorships, partnerships, or any type of corporation, and with receipts of $1,000 or more. The SBO covers both firms with paid employees and firms with no paid employees. The SBO is conducted on a company or firm basis rather than an establishment basis. A company or firm is a business consisting of one or more domestic establishments that the reporting firm specified under its ownership or control.

The data are compiled by combining data collected on businesses and business owners in the SBO with data collected on the main economic census and administrative records.

Business ownership is defined as having 51 percent or more of the stock or equity in the business and is categorized by Veteran status: Veteran; equally veteran/nonveteran; nonveteran. Firms equally veteran-/nonveteran-owned are counted and tabulated as separate categories.

Estimates include the number of employer and nonemployer firms, sales and receipts, annual payroll, and employment. Data aggregates are presented by veteran status for the United States by 2007 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), kind of business, states, metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, counties, places, and employment and receipts size.

The SBO covers 20 NAICS industries, except those classified as:

  • Crop and Animal Production (NAICS 111, 112)
  • Scheduled Passenger Air Transportation (NAICS 481111)
  • Rail Transportation (NAICS 482)
  • Postal Service (NAICS 491)
  • Funds, Trusts, and Other Financial Vehicles (NAICS 525)
  • Religious, Grantmaking, Civic, Professional, and Similar Organizations(NAICS 813)
  • Private Households (NAICS 814)
  • Public Administration (NAICS 92)

Data have been collected every 5 years since 1972, for years ending in "2" and "7" as part of the economic census. The program began as a special project for minority-owned businesses in 1969 and was incorporated into the economic census in 1972 along with the Survey of Women-Owned Businesses.


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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Veterans |  Last Revised: 2013-05-21T17:14:37.913-04:00