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US veteran population to decrease, report finds

Number of Mass. veterans to drop 60 percent by 2043

With parades, memorial services, and honorary events, Americans pay tribute to their veterans today. But the number of veterans — both nationwide and in Massachusetts — is shrinking.

A report by the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics found that the number of veterans will steadily decrease over the next 30 years.

In Massachusetts, there were 392,079 veterans in 2013, according to the US Department of Veteran Affairs. Their service spans peacetime and wartime, from before World War II to the present day.

But by 2043, the report predicts Massachusetts will have just 157,491 veterans, a drop of about 60 percent.


This decrease can be attributed, in part, to the large numbers of aging veterans who served in mid-2oth century wars and conflicts, the report found.

When did Massachusetts veterans serve?

Time of service All Men Women
All veterans 392,079 365,708 26,371
Wartime 283,174 264,386 18,787
Peacetime 108,906 101,322 7,584
WWII 31,017 28,994 2,023
Korean Conflict 46,499 44,927 1,572
Vietnam Era 129,074 125,435 3,639
Gulf War Era (Pre-9/11) 36,411 31,212 5,198
Gulf War Era (Post-9/11) 34,475 30,035 4,440

DATA: US Department of Veteran Affairs

Globe Staff

Vietnam-era veterans made up about a third of all Massachusetts veterans in 2013. By 2043, they will make up less than 10 percent of the veteran population.

In 2013, the majority of Massachusetts veterans were over the age of 50, with nearly 59,000 veterans falling between the ages of 65 and 69.

The female veteran population, however, was more evenly distributed across ages. The report predicted that while the total population will decrease, the proportion of female veterans nationwide will grow from 9 percent in 2013 to 16.5 percent in 2043.

The report found that the proportion of veterans of color will also increase. In 2013, black and Hispanic veterans made up about 11.5 and 6 percent, respectively, of the veteran population. In 2043, the percentage of black veterans will grow to about 16.5 percent and Hispanic veterans will make up 11.5 percent of the total population.

Racial breakdown of Massachusetts veterans

Race All Men Women
White 349,950 327,352 22,598
Black or African American 16,607 14,325 2,282
American Indian of Alaska Native 701 698 4
Asian 2,769 2,566 203
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander 314 314 0
Some other race 3,803 3,100 703
Two or more races 5,627 5,266 361
Hispanic 11,350 10,219 1,131

DATA: US Department of Veteran Affairs

Globe Staff

The largest cohort of veterans is white men who served during the Vietnam era, the report found. As they age, America’s veteran population — albeit a smaller one — will become more diverse.


Catherine Cloutier can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @cmcloutier.