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Community / Public space

US cities are light on veterans

Across the US, around one in 12 civilian adults are military veterans. Since the US ditched isolationism, the proportion of war veterans in the adult population has risen to 6.5 per cent.

That sounds like a lot – but what’s even more interesting is how they’re spread out. A recent study from real estate company Trulia shows that the concentration of veterans isn’t consistent across the country. This diagram shows the percentage of veterans in different areas (the map’s divided up according to the metropolitan areas defined by the US census). 

The darkest blue patches, which tend to be rural, have at least double the proportion of veterans of the palest, which include many of the country’s biggest cities.

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Moreover, when the researchers looked into concentrations in specific cities, they found that the proportion rises to one in five in smaller cities; in larger metropolitan areas, it falls to one in 20. When they cross-referenced city size with veteran density, they found that adult civilian populations in large, dense cities had around 6 per cent veterans, while small towns and rural areas averaged at around 11 per cent.:

So why are veterans urban-averse? One solution might lie in the location of military bases. Veterans are relatively likely to live near where they were based while still in active service: most people don’t move town when they retire. And bases are rarely built in large cities: they require training space and accomodation for staff and officers, so a Manhattan skyscraper makes far less sense than a smaller town or city where land is cheap.

Also, while veterans’ average age is somewhat lower than the general retired population (the median veteran age is currently 64), retirement communities attract their fair share of veterans, especially older vets who served in the Korean or Second World war. The survey found that the proportion of older veterans was highest in Florida, a state best-known for its retirement communities and Disney World. 

Overall, though, the character of the profession itself might offer the best explanation: those who join the military for its travel, physical activity and excitement probably don’t lie in bed dreaming of  an overpriced, high-rise apartment and a job at an accountancy firm. 
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