By on 11.7.19 in NC in Focus

Active-duty military personnel and veterans have a significant presence in North Carolina. North Carolina is home to two major military bases—Fort Bragg (Army) and Camp Lejeune (Marine Corps)—in addition to two Marine Corps Air Stations at New River and Cherry Point and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. As a result, more North Carolina adults are veterans than the national average: 8.3% versus 7.1% nationwide.

In 2018, just over 667,000 veterans lived in North Carolina according to the most recent American Community Survey estimates, an increase of 11,000 veterans from 2017. This 1.6% growth marks the first time that North Carolina’s veteran population increased since we began producing these profiles in 2013. Nationally, the veteran population continued to decrease, declining from 18.2 million in 2017 to just under 18.0 million in 2018. The likely cause of the overall veteran population decline is mortality, as veterans that served in World War II, Korea, and even Vietnam advance in age.


North Carolina’s veterans are much older, on average, then the non-veteran adult population. Forty-five percent (44%) of NC veterans are 65 or older compared to just 19% of non-veteran adults. Just 10% of the state’s veterans are between the ages of 18 and 34, one-third the share of non-veterans (30%) in this age group.

NC veterans age

Reflecting this older age structure, North Carolina veterans are more likely to have a disability than non-veterans. Twenty-eight percent (28%) of the state’s veterans reported a disability in 2018 compared to 15% of the state’s non-veterans.


Most veterans in North Carolina are male. Just over one in every ten veterans in the state (10.4%) was female in 2018, higher than the national average of 9.2%.

Race & Ethnicity

The veteran population is somewhat less diverse than the state’s overall adult population, reflecting the relatively older age structure. Among North Carolina’s veterans in 2018:

  • 73% are white vs. 65% of non-veteran adults;
  • 21% are black vs. 21% of non-veterans;
  • 3.3% are Hispanic vs. 7.9% of non-veterans;
  • 0.9% are American Indian vs. 1.2% of non-veterans;
  • 0.5% are Asian vs. 3.1% of non-veterans; and
  • 1.3% are some other race or multiracial vs. 1.8% of non-veterans.

Period of Military Service

In North Carolina, like the nation, the largest share of veterans served during the Vietnam era: 36% in North Carolina and 34% nationwide. Compared to the national average, North Carolina’s veterans were more likely to report service in either of the Gulf Wars and less likely to have served during the Korean War or World War II. A similar share of veterans reported serving during no specific military conflict (22%).

NC veterans day wars served

Labor Force, Income, and Poverty

Compared to their non-veteran peers, North Carolina veterans of prime working age (18-64) were slightly more likely to be in the labor force: 76.0% NC veterans were in the labor force in 2018 compared to 75.5% of non-veterans.

This is especially driven by high labor force participation rates among younger veterans:

  • 82.5% of NC veterans aged 18-34 were in the labor force vs. 75.6% of non-veterans;
  • 83.5% of NC veterans aged 35-54 were in the labor force vs. 81.3% of non-veterans; and
  • 62.1% of NC veterans aged 55-64 were in the labor force vs. 63.4% of non-veterans.

Among those in the labor force, North Carolina’s veterans were less likely to be unemployed: 3.3% of veterans aged 18-64 were unemployed in 2018 compared to 5.0% of non-veterans. The difference was most pronounced among the youngest veterans, with 5.4% of veterans aged 18-34 reporting unemployment compared to 7.0% of non-veterans.

North Carolina’s veterans also had much higher median incomes than the non-veteran population. Among the population receiving income, the median veteran income in 2018 was $40,807, more than $12,900 or 46% higher than the median non-veteran income of $27,912.

Reflecting these higher incomes, North Carolina’s veterans were much less likely to be in poverty than non-veterans. Just 6.8% of the state’s veteran population had incomes below the poverty line in 2018, nearly half the rate of the state’s non-veteran adult population (12.8%).

Educational Attainment

Though non-veterans are more likely to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher (32% vs. 29% of veterans), North Carolina’s veterans are more likely to have attended some college or received an associate degree (40% vs. 30%). In total, 69% of North Carolina veterans have some college or a postsecondary degree compared to 62% of non-veterans.

Veterans are also more likely than non-veterans to have completed high school: 5% of NC veterans reported having less than a high school diploma in 2018 versus 12% of non-veterans.

NC veterans day postsecondary attainment

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