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Three-fourths of Female Veterans Served During Wartime


Three-fourths of Female Veterans Served During Wartime


Younger Veterans Are More Educated, More Diverse

Female veterans under the age of 45 are more likely to have served in a wartime period than their older counterparts.

The number of women in the military soared dramatically after 1973, when the All-Volunteer Force (AVF) began. Until the mid-1970s, women were restricted to 2 percent of the total military population. In 2016, women made up about 16 percent of the active-duty military and there were 1.6 million female veterans living in the United States and Puerto Rico. Three-fourths of these women have served in a wartime period.

The Post-9/11 cohort, who now make up 35.8 percent of female veterans, are not only young but diverse and educated:

  • More than 78 percent are under the age of 45.
  • More than 23 percent are black, non-Hispanic.
  • About 12 percent are Hispanic.
  • Almost 45 percent completed some college and 41.1 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree.

The women who served during the first Gulf War are about 12 years older than Post-9/11 veterans and fewer of them are Hispanic:

  • Their median age is 47.
  • More than 22 percent are black, non-Hispanic (not statistically different from Post-9/11 female veterans) and 8.8 percent are Hispanic.
  • Less than 25 percent have a bachelor’s degree and 16.8 percent have a post-graduate degree.

Women have served in some capacity in our nation’s military since its inception and have formally been a part of the U.S. armed forces since the creation of the Army Nurse Corps in 1901. The end of the draft and the transition to the AVF in 1973 marked a dramatic increase in the opportunities available for women to serve in the military.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2016. Puerto Rico Community Survey, 2016. For more information, see

Note: Veterans who served in multiple wartime periods are classified in their most recent period of service. Categories are mutually exclusive.

The largest peacetime period since the advent of the AVF was from May 1975 to July 1990. This was a time of great transition for women in the military and is reflected in the size of the peacetime only cohort, which accounts for nearly 25 percent of all female veterans. Prior to 2012, the peacetime only cohort was the largest cohort of female veterans.

Over 500,000 women served our country in the military during the Vietnam era, Korean War and World War II. The wartime female veterans of the pre-AVF era have a median age of 69 and the majority (73.9 percent) served in the Vietnam era. About 30 percent have completed a bachelor's degree or higher.

Daphne Lofquist is a demographer in the Census Bureau's Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division.



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This story was posted in: Population

Tags: Population , Women
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