Which U.S. States Have the Highest Concentration of Veterans?

About 7 percent of the U.S. population are veterans.
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Which U.S. States Have the Highest Concentration of Veterans? Scott Olson/Getty Images

The United States's army is among the world's largest, and so many Americans are veterans—around 20.4 million in 2016, or 7 percent of the population, according to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

That may seem like a lot, but the number of Americans who have military experience is actually declining: In 1980, almost one in five Americans was a veteran. This number looks set to fall further. By 2045, the VA predicts a 40 percent decrease from current numbers.

The number of veterans varies from state to state, according to the Census Bureau. New York has the least amount of resident veterans of any state, at 4.5 percent of the adult population. Alaska, which has the most, at 11.9 percent, has more than twice as many veterans as New York.

Not only does Alaska have the most veterans, but one out of every three Alaskans is either military or a dependent, Verdie Bowen, the state's director of veterans affairs, told The Washington Post in 2017. He said veterans are drawn to the state because of work opportunities, loose gun laws and a culture of self-reliance.

Virginia and Montana tie as the states with the second-highest proportion of veterans, 10.6 percent. Virginia has a particularly high number of veterans who served in the two Gulf wars.

Veterans still face challenges when returning from service. There were around 38,000 homeless vets nationwide in 2018, although that number has halved since 2010, according to the departments of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs.

Mental health disorders are also common among veterans. A 2016 study found that around one in four Iraq War veterans met the case definition for post-traumatic stress disorder.

However, data from the Census Bureau shows that, in terms of post-service employment and income, veterans are doing better than nonveterans. Besides having higher median incomes, veterans are less likely to be living below the poverty line. Veterans in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Alaska and Virginia earn on average more than $50,000.

Using Census data, we've charted veterans in every U.S. state, including which states have the highest proportional veteran population, which wars that population fought in and how much they're earning.

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51. New York Civilian population 18 years and over: 15.7m. Of which are veterans: 4.5 percent. Conflict breakdown: Gulf War (9/2001 or later) veterans: 14.9%, Gulf War (8/1990 to 8/2001) veterans: 13.4%, Vietnam War era veterans: 34.9%, Korean War veterans: 10.9%, World War II veterans: 5.6% Median income of veterans: $40,199. Median income of all civilians: $32,145 Percent of veterans with income below poverty level: 6.7. Percent of people with income below poverty level for all civilians: 12.6 Spencer Platt/Getty Images