Thursday, June 18, 2015

Veterans in Pittsburgh

A pretty regular question I get is about the number of veterans in Pittsburgh.  Western Pennsylvania has a lot of veterans for sure, but it is one of those statistics that is heavily, heavily impacted by our older age demographics for sure.  There was a draft in place in the United States from 1940-1946 and 1948-1972. I guess there was a draft technically in 1947, but there were no accessions as the nation drew down after the war.  That and later personnel demands of the Korean and Vietnam wars mean that older generations had much higher rates of military service than recent generations.  

But the question is usually in the context of younger veterans in Pittsburgh, and in particular those who have served since 9/11.  This all came to mind because yesterday there was some interesting data compiled by the Military Times showing the rate of unemployment for veterans in Pittsburgh is 4.0%, which is the lowest rate in this list of comparable data for large cities. Seems pretty noteworthy to me.

But what is the overall trend in the number of younger veterans residing in Pittsburgh?  There is not a master database of veterans you may be surprised to know, certainly not a list that tracks geography of residence and is available to study.  The Department of Veterans Affairs used to model county level estimates of the veterans population by period of service, but I don't find that available any longer. It may exist.  But the VA really is not going to even track you at all if you are not using a VA service and not all veterans do so early in their post-service careers.

So what data do we have?  Here is the trend in what the American Community Says about Pittsburgh's population of veterans who had periods of active service since 9/11. This is or the 7 county MSA and works out to about a net gain of +1K annually on average.



Like all other migration stats, there is no such thing as a net migrant.  For sure more than 1,000 younger veterans arrive in Pittsburgh each year, but like all types of younger folks, many leave as well.  The +1k/year net increase is actually is actually a bit low if you think Pittsburgh attracts an average number of veterans each year.  Each year between 240K and 360K servicemembers leave the military, so that is the number of new veterans with post 9/11 service each year.  The Pittsburgh region (~2.4 million population) is about 0.75% of the US population, so if we attracted a proportional number of veterans it would work out out to between 1,800 and 2,600 new post-9/11 veterans each year.  But the data above is for 5 year periods. If you extrapolate out it give you a current population of ~19K post-9/11 veterans residing in the Pittsburgh MSA.

I am conflating I know the concept of 'younger' veterans with post 9/11 service veterans.  Realize that veterans come in all ages, and even veterans with post-9/11 service can be old.  Some leave the military via retirement so work backwards.  2001 is now 14 years ago and a new military retiree in 2001 was age 40-50 at the time, which works out to 54-64 today.  But most separating servicemembers are much younger on average.

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