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Surveys and Programs Contributing to Veterans

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 U.S. Census Bureau also collects information on veteran-owned businesses and business owners using the Survey of Business Owners (SBO).  Veteran data for the U.S. Island Areas, as well as historical data related to veterans can be found in Decennial Census data. 

American Community Survey (ACS)

The American Community Survey (ACS) is an annual, nationwide survey of more than 3.5 million households in the U.S. The ACS is part of the Decennial Census Program and replaces the long form, which the Census Bureau last used during Census 2000. The survey produces statistics on demographic, social, economic, and other characteristics about our nation's population and housing. We release ACS 1-year estimates in September for the pervious calendar year and 5-year estimates in December for the previous five calendar years.

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 the primary source of labor force statistics for the population of the U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics sponsors the survey, and the U.S. Census Bureau conducts the data each month. The CPS involves a sample of about 60,000 occupied households. Households are in the survey for four consecutive months, out for eight, and then return for another four months before leaving the sample permanently.

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) provides information on the distribution of income and the success of government assistance programs. SIPP data provide the most extensive information available on how the nation’s economic well-being changes over time. The sample survey is a continuous series of national panels, each ranging from approximately 14,000 to 53,000 interviewed households. The duration of each panel ranges from 2 ½ years to 4 years.

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) 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. Title 13 of the United States Code authorizes this survey and provides for mandatory responses.

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 2012 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)
  • Monetary Authorities -- Central Bank (NAICS 521)
  • 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.

Decennial Census

The decennial census counts every resident in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Island Areas every 10 years. Census 2000 was the last decennial census that included a long form in the United States and Puerto Rico, which included questions on veteran status and period of military service. Similar data for the United States and Puerto Rico are now available annually from the ACS.

Census 2010 included questions on veteran status, period of military service, and service-connected disability rating for the U.S. Island Areas: American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Page Last Revised - December 3, 2021
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