What Percentage of Americans Have Served in the Military?

Written by

John Cotton


Logan Miller

what percentage of americans have served in the military

According to the World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers, 0.41% of Americans served in the United States military (as of 2019). However, as new people enlist and the population shifts, this percentage changes every year.

Continue reading below and let’s dig deeper into veterans numbers by state, by gender, and by military branch.

Percentage of Americans Who Have Served in the Military


The military capability of a country showcases the strength it has to fight against direct threats, maintain peace throughout its land, and provide economic stability. As such, the United States military not only invests in equipment but also in people.

In order to get the percentage of Americans who have served in the military, here is the math:

  • Step 1. Add the number of active-duty personnel + the number of veterans + the number of veterans who died within a particular year
  • Step 2. Divide the US population of a particular year from the sum you got from Step 1.
  • Step 3. Convert your quotient (answer from step 2) into a percentage. Multiply your quotient by 100.

For this to work, you can only get data from the same year.

Current statistics

The latest report breaking down veteran statistics was published in September 2022.

1. List of veterans by gender


18.4 million men and women were veterans in 2022. It means 7 percentage of the U.S. population are veterans then. Of every 10 American males, only one was a woman.

  • About 1.4% of female Americans have served in the military
  • About 13.4% of male Americans have served in the military

2. List of veterans by state


As of 2022, the states with the most veterans are Texas (with 1,408,400), Florida (1,356,880 veterans), and California (with 1,342,330).

  • The veteran population between Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, and New York are all in the 600,000 range.

3. List of veterans by age


As of September 2022, about 43% of veterans were in the 75-year-old (and older) range. What this data means is that the VA is expecting the number of veterans to drastically decrease as more War-era veterans pass away. When this happens, Post-9/11 veterans would be the biggest group of veterans left.

Historical trends in military service


The percent of the US population serving in the military is at an all-time low, but the historical trends in military service are evolving.

  2000   2020
Number of veterans 26.4 million (12.7%) out of a population of 208 million 16.5 million (4.9%) out of a population of 331 million
Number of females in the military vs. number of males 10,791 females vs. 66,085 males 398,546 females vs. 1,731,231 males
Racial and ethnic groups
White 64.9% 70.2%
Black 17.6% 16.8%
Asian 6.2% 4.7%
Other minorities 11.3% 8.3%

From 2000 to 2020, the United States saw an average 25% decrease in the Veteran population.

According to the US VA, veteran population projections predict the following  by 2048:

  • A decline in total veteran population from 19.5 million in 2020 to 13.6 million.
  • The annual percentage change in female veterans will increase a tiny 0.4%
  • An increase of 25.2% in minority veterans, which includes an 8.2% increase in hispanic veterans.
  • About 50% of veterans will make up Gulf War Era veterans

Demographics of Military Service


The US Department of Veterans Affairs takes the ratio of veteran and active duty military percentage of the population very seriously.

Because the number of veterans has always vastly outnumbered the number of active-duty personnel, the military and other think tank organizations continuously conduct surveys to determine the factors that affect military service rates.

On top of this, age, gender, and race/ethnicity continue to be the biggest factors that influence military service rates, even if the military tries to become as diverse as possible.

As early as 2006, the US military has been trying to encourage older people to enlist. Unlike recruits who traditionally come from the 17 to 21 age group, welcoming individuals over 21 solves two things:

  • increase the number of enlistments
  • hire an increased number of experienced individuals for skilled roles

The numbers of older recruits aren’t dramatic, but a welcome change nonetheless.

When it comes to gender diversity, it doesn’t help that many military units and roles are still not open for women. A good example of this is the Marine Corps and other ground combat units.

The racial and ethnic diversity of enlisted recruits between genders and military branches varies considerably, but newer generations are becoming more diverse. However, there continues to be less racial diversity with higher ranks across the board. Generals and officers in the Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Air Force and the US Army are disproportionately white.

Comparison With Other Countries


Which country has the largest military in the world?

That would be the People’s Republic of China with a massive 2,035,000-individual military force.

  • India comes in second with 1.46 million military personnel.
  • The United States ranks only third with a military personnel count 1.39 million.
  • North Korea, a country wherein all males 17 and above are forced to enlist, has a military made up of 1,280,000 personnel.
  • Russia completes the top 5 with 900,000 military personnel.
  • Pakistan (651k), Iran (610k), South Korea (555k), Vietnam (482k), and Egypt (438k) rank 6th to 10th as the biggest military size by country.

Budget-wise, China doesn’t rank first in military funding. The United States takes first place as the most well-funded military out of 172 countries with an active military. Veteran reports show that the US assigns a big chunk of its budget to honor the veterans through pensions and other money-saving programs.


The importance of a country’s military is not lost on people, but the number of enlistments has been decreasing year to year.

Now that you know the answer to “What percentage of Americans have served in the military?”, did it inspire you to enlist and join the ranks?

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