Most Rural Vets Reside in the South, Midwest

Five million veterans live in rural areas, with the majority living in rural areas in the South and Midwest, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Residing in a rural area as a veteran, the survey’s results reveal, is not unlike residing in an urban area as a veteran, with the exception of employment and income—factors aligning more with those also in rural areas who are not veterans.

“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,” said Kelly Holder, a demographer, in a statement on the survey. “The two exceptions were employment rates and median household income, where rural veterans were more like their rural neighbors.”

Employment among veterans in rural areas is 66.0 percent, according to the results of the survey, below employment among non-veterans in rural areas (67.7 percent) and veterans in urban areas (70.7 percent). Employment is correlated with the “level of rurality,” or the share of the rural population per county, falling as rurality rises.

Income among veterans in rural areas is a median $ 53,554, above the median $ 52,161 of nonveterans in rural areas, but below the median $ 59,674 of veterans in urban areas. Poverty is also correlated with rurality, rising in tandem.

Approximately half (45.9 percent) of veterans in rural areas live in the South, while approximately one-quarter (26.4 percent) live in rural areas in the Midwest. The Northeast has the lowest share of veterans living in rural areas, at 13.7 percent, while the West has 14.1 percent.

The rural population overall has grown 3 percent to urban areas’ 11 percent—a rate expected to slow to 1 percent between 2020 and 2030, according to a report by the Urban Institute. The stunted growth pattern is in contrast to the vast amount of acreage available to develop; 85 percent of Americans live in urban areas, but rural areas comprise 75 percent of land in the U.S. With lot shortages bearing down on the home-building industry—and, subsequently, housing supply—continued migration of both veterans and nonveterans away from rural areas will put pressure on housing affordability and inventory in urban areas.

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