Where are Our Veterans?

By Tim Brown, County Information Senior Analyst

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I was recently on the U.S. Census Bureau’s website (www.census.gov) and saw that the “American Community Survey” includes information on veteran status by county. It seems that during every legislative session, members file a variety of bills impacting veterans, often involving property tax exemptions, for example.

We do not know the value of homes owned by veterans, which would be nice to have for calculating the fiscal impact of the bills in our example. But we can, at least, get the number of veterans by county from the “American Community Survey.”

Map 1 shows the estimated percent of the adult population, age 18 and older, comprised of veterans. Surprisingly, veterans make up more than 20 percent of the adult population in three Texas counties: Bell (21.3 percent), Lampasas (21.1) and Coryell (20.1). 

In addition to veteran status, the Bureau asks when these individuals served. Map 2 shows by county the estimated percent of veterans that served during World War II. While veterans from WWII failed to make up the majority of veterans in any single county, estimates indicate they made up more than 25 percent in three counties: Motley (45.6), McMullen (30.0) and Terrell (25.0).


Map 3 shows that up to 100 percent of the veterans in one county (King County) served during the Korean War. The Bureau estimates that the percentage topped 25 percent in four other counties: Terrell (33.3), Hamilton (28.8), Baylor (26.9) and Glasscock (25.5). 

Map 4 shows the percentage of veterans from the Vietnam era. Amazingly, these veterans accounted for at least 25 percent of all veterans in 239 counties. The Bureau estimates 515,132 Vietnam era veterans lived in Texas during 2012-2016, which means that just over one-third of all the veterans in Texas served during this timeframe. By comparison, only 311,144 Gulf War (9/2001 and later) veterans lived in the state during 2012-2016. The estimated percentage of veterans from the Vietnam era reached over 75 percent in three counties: Loving (100.0), Kenedy (76.9) and Jim Hogg (75.4).


Maps 5 and 6 split Gulf War veterans into two groups: first Gulf War – those who served before September 2001, and second Gulf War – those who served September 2001 and later. Although similar in size, the Bureau estimates slightly more veterans at 357,733 in the former group and 311,144 in the latter. The maps display the percentage of total veterans who served during these time periods respectively. 


First Gulf War veterans made up more than 25 percent of all veterans in 30 counties. This group exceeded 40 percent of the total in three counties: Guadalupe (46.1), Coryell (43.9) and Bell (40.7).

Second Gulf War veterans comprised 25 percent of all veterans in only 20 counties. While only two counties exceed 40 percent, in one county, second Gulf War veterans accounted for over half of all veterans: Bell (51.0), Coryell (42.5) and Armstrong (35.0).

Most of these maps focus on the percentage of veterans from differing periods rather than the number of veterans in each county. While the numbers per county are important, we must remember that this is not a homogenous group; the experiences of the Vietnam vet differed greatly from that of the WWII and Gulf War vets.

The American Community Survey

The Bureau conducts the “American Community Survey” every year, but only collects information from a few people each year in smaller counties. Consequently, the Bureau only produces estimates for those counties after rolling together the survey data from five consecutive years. The most recent estimates cover 2012-2016, during which respondents were asked if they were veterans and when they served. Veterans served, but are not currently serving, on active duty in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard, or served in the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II. How long they served does not matter, but they must have served on active duty.

The Bureau categorizes veterans in their most recent period of wartime service. For example, a veteran who served in both first Gulf War (August 1991 – August 2001) and second Gulf War (September 2001 and later) would be categorized as “Gulf War (September 2001 and later).”

For those interested, the Bureau makes their estimates of veteran numbers and percentages available online. However, finding the data can be difficult. If you need help locating American Community
Survey estimates, contact Tim Brown at 800-456-5974 or 512-478-8753.