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Nearly One-Quarter of Veterans Live in Rural Areas, Census Bureau Reports

Release Number CB17-15

JAN. 25, 2017 — About 5 million (24.1 percent) U.S. veterans 18 years and older lived in areas designated as rural between 2011 and 2015, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The report found that when considering demographic and economic characteristics, rural veterans were similar to urban veterans except for their median household income and employment rates.

Rural veterans had median household incomes more similar to those of rural nonveterans than urban veterans ($53,554 compared with $52,161 and $59,674, respectively). The poverty rate for all rural veterans was 6.9 percent. This rate increased by level of rurality, to a high of 8.6 percent for veterans in completely rural counties. Level of rurality is based on the percentage of the county population living in rural areas.

Working-age rural veterans (18 to 64 years old) had an employment rate of 66.0 percent, lower than rural nonveterans and urban veterans (67.7 percent and 70.7 percent, respectively). The employment rate of rural veterans decreased as the level of rurality increased. Employed rural veterans, however, were more likely to work full time and year-round than rural nonveterans (81.6 percent compared with 71.5 percent).

“In general, rural veterans were different from rural nonveterans in the ways veterans are typically different from nonveterans, and rural veterans were different from urban veterans in the ways all rural residents are different from their urban counterparts,” Kelly Holder, demographer, said. “The two exceptions were employment rates and median household income where rural veterans were more like their rural neighbors.”

These findings are from the Census Bureau’s Veterans in Rural America report that uses American Community Survey 5-year statistics. The Census Bureau released these statistics on Dec. 8, which are available for all geographic areas regardless of population size, down to the block-group level.

Other Highlights:


  • Just under half of all rural veterans lived in the South (45.9 percent), followed by 26.4 percent in the Midwest, 14.1 percent in the West, and 13.7 percent in the Northeast.


  • The median age of rural veterans was about 15 years higher than rural nonveterans and 2 years higher than urban veterans, and their age increased as the level of rurality increased. Rural veterans living in counties that were completely rural were the oldest, with a median age of 66.

Health Insurance

  • During the 2011-2015 period, 5.2 percent of all rural veterans and 15.4 percent of all rural nonveterans were not covered by any type of health insurance plan. Of the rural veterans who had health insurance during this period, 30.3 percent had private insurance only, 24.6 percent had public insurance only, and the remainder (45.1 percent) had a combination of private and public insurance.

About the American Community Survey

The American Community Survey provides a wide range of important statistics about all communities in the United States. The American Community Survey gives communities the current information they need to plan investments and services. Retailers, homebuilders, fire departments, and town and city planners are among the many private- and public-sector decision makers who count on these annual results. For some examples, visit the Stats in Action page.



Amanda Perry
Public Information Office


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