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Census 2000 Brief: Veterans: 2000

Report Number C2KBR-22
Christy Richardson and Judith Waldrop

Census 2000 counted 208.1 million civilians 18 and older in the United States.1 Within this population, approximately 26.4 million or 12.7 percent were veterans. Census data define a civilian veteran as someone 18 and older who is not currently on active duty, but who once served on active duty in the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, or who served in the Merchant Marine during World War II.2 This definition includes people who served for even a short time. Census 2000 collected data about the periods and length of service for veterans. Period of military service data distinguish veterans who served during wartime from those who served during peacetime. Questions about period and length of military service provide information necessary to estimate the number of veterans who are eligible to receive specific benefits.3

Decennial censuses have included a question on veterans since 1840. In the 1990 census, veterans data were collected from the population 15 and older, and data were released for those 16 and older. Veteran status information was also collected from people 15 and older in Census 2000, but the Census 2000 data are reported here only for the population 18 and older.

The Census 2000 long form was distributed to 1 in 6 households in the United States. Question 20, the veterans item on this form, asked respondents about any active-duty service in the U.S. Armed Forces, military Reserves, or National Guard; about periods of service; and about the number of years of active-duty military service (see Figure 1).

The 1990 census and Census 2000 questions asked about different periods of service. The most recent period on the Census 2000 questionnaire was April 1995 or later, while in 1990 it was September 1980 or later. The 1990 census provided a separate category for World War I service; Census 2000 asked people with such service to mark the “Some other time” category. In both 1990 and 2000, respondents could indicate that they served during more than one period.

This report is part of a series that presents population and housing data collected by Census 2000. It contains data on the veteran status of the civilian population 18 and older. It highlights the size of the veteran population, changes between 1990 and 2000, the distribution of the population by periods of service, and the distribution of the population in regions, states, counties, and places with populations of 100,000 or more.

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1 The text of this report discusses data for the United States, including the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Data for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are shown in Table 2 and Figure 4.

2 Active duty does not include active duty for training in the military Reserves or National Guard, such as the 4 to 6 months of initial training or yearly summer camps.

3 The estimates in this report are based on responses from a sample of the population. As with all surveys, estimates may vary from the actual values because of sampling variation or other factors. All statements made in this report have undergone statistical testing and are significant at the 90-percent confidence level unless otherwise noted.

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