By on 11.12.20 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: 7.9% versus 6.9% nationwide.

In 2019, nearly 642,000 veterans lived in North Carolina according to the most recent American Community Survey estimates, a decrease of 25,000 veterans from 2018. Nationally, the veteran population continued to decrease, declining to 17.4 million from just under 18 million in 2018. The likely cause of the overall veteran population decline is mortality, as veterans who 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 (46%) of NC veterans are 65 or older compared to just 20% of non-veteran adults. Just 9% of the state’s veterans are between the ages of 18 and 34, less than one-third the share of non-veterans (30%) in this age group.

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Reflecting this older age structure, North Carolina veterans are nearly twice as likely to have a disability than non-veterans. Thirty percent (30%) of the state’s veterans reported a disability in 2019 compared to 16% of the state’s non-veterans.


Most veterans in North Carolina are male. Just over one in every ten veterans in the state (10.6%) was female in 2019, higher than the national average of 9.4%.

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 2019:

  • 73% are white vs. 65% of non-veteran adults;
  • 21% are black vs. 21% of non-veterans;
  • 3.2% are Hispanic vs. 8.1% of non-veterans;
  • 0.9% are American Indian vs. 1.2% of non-veterans;
  • 1.0% are Asian or Pacific Islander vs. 3.2% of non-veterans; and

1.2% are some other race or multiracial vs. 1.4% 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.

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Labor Force, Income, and Poverty

Compared to their non-veteran peers, North Carolina veterans of prime working age (18-64) were less likely to be in the labor force: 72.4% NC veterans were in the labor force in 2019 compared to 75.7% of non-veterans.

Among those in the labor force, North Carolina’s veterans were less likely to be unemployed: 3.1% of veterans aged 18-64 were unemployed in 2019 compared to 4.6% of non-veterans.

North Carolina’s veterans had higher median incomes than the non-veteran population. Among the population receiving income, the median veteran income in 2019 was $41,346, more than $11,300 or 38% higher than the median non-veteran income of $30,034.

Reflecting these higher incomes, North Carolina’s veterans were much less likely to be in poverty than non-veterans. Seven percent of the state’s veteran population had incomes below the poverty line in 2019, more than five percentage points below the poverty rate of the state’s non-veteran adult population (12.4%).

Educational Attainment

Though non-veterans are more likely to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher (33% vs. 29% of veterans), North Carolina’s veterans are more likely to have attended some college or received an associate degree (39% vs. 30%). In total, 68% of North Carolina veterans have some college or a postsecondary degree compared to 62% of non-veterans.

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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 2019 versus 12% of non-veterans.

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