WASHINGTON — Young veterans are better educated, better paid and better off than many of their civilian peers, which researchers believe could be due to their military service.

The analysis, released by The Graduate Center at the City University of New York earlier this month, cuts against public perception of veterans struggling to adjust to post-military life. Researchers examined a decade of economic and demographic trends among veterans who served during the post-Sept. 11 era, and found that generally “the news is good.”

“On the whole, 9/11 era veterans performed well above the national average in most socio-economic categories,” the report stated. “The data indicate that between 2005 and 2015 employment, income, and educational attainment rates were consistently higher, and poverty rates consistently lower, than general nationwide rates.

“In short, there is considerable evidence here to affirm that serving in the armed forces continues to have a direct correlation with greater socio-economic success.”

The number of Iraq and Afghanistan war-era veterans more than doubled over the course of the study time frame, from about 1.5 million in 2005 to almost 3.2 million in 2015.

Despite a national recession during that period, veterans from the group showed a near-constant employment rate of about 78 percent, significantly above the 70 percent of the total civilian population. Those trends held true across gender and racial groups.

Researchers said income for the younger veterans also showed significant advances over their civilian peers.

The median household income for post-Sept. 11 veterans was nearly $74,000 a year in 2005, almost $7,000 more than the non-veteran average. In 2015 the difference was even more pronounced: The veterans average reached $80,000, while the non-veterans rate only rose to $68,000.

“These data appear to be clear indicators that military service is a path to economic success that is, quite literally, above average,” the report states.

The analysis also found that young veterans also have lower poverty rates and higher levels of education than their civilian peers.

Nearly one in eight young adults in America did not graduate from high school, but only one in 33 veterans failed to reach that level, according to the report data. Nearly half of all young veterans (47 percent) earned a college degree, while only 37 percent of their peers did.

The CUNY researchers did not draw direct connections between military service and career performance, saying only the data shows a strong correlation between the two. And they also said that the data as a whole does not show possible regional problems, where veterans in a specific area could face extra obstacles to post-military success.

But the study helps to dispel the assertion that military service is a detriment to a young adult’s potential career success.

“Often, service in the armed forces can be viewed as a ‘dead end’ path reserved for those with fewer options,” the report stated. “But as this report suggests, it can also be packaged as a statistically proven path to higher income, educational attainment, and quality of life.”


Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at lshane@militarytimes.com.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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