More on “Two Americas”

I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday weekend. I am busy sealing cracks in the concrete floor of my office, in preparation for new carpet. After the sealant cures, I’ll be applying some Drylok to the parts I had to patch with fresh cement.

I noticed today that Chris from Alaska has an excellent post that furthers the “Two Americas” theme we’ve talked about sometimes on here, noting which states are over and underrepresented in the US military, and which states are losing veteran population the quickest. I am not surprised to see Pennsylvania is underrepresented, despite being the 6th most populous state, nor am I surprised we’re one of the heavy losers in terms of veteran population. Our veteran population trends older, and it’s relatively unheard of for young people around here to join the military.

25 thoughts on “More on “Two Americas””

  1. and it’s relatively unheard of for young people around here to join the military.

    I think this statement could be in a post about two Pennsylvanias. I know many, many people my age and younger who have served (I’m 29). And I live in PA, not all that far from Sebastian.

  2. Everywhere I was stationed whether it was school or duty station, in the group I worked with had at least one other guy from PA. I’m around 25 and live in SEPA.

  3. I’m curious about veterans leaving PA.
    I just moved back to PA and I’m wondering about the reasons.
    Are there any further clarifications or explanations given?


    1. One factor would be tax treatment of military pensions.

      A few states (TX, AK, FL) have no income tax at all.
      Others do not tax military retirement pay (Alabama, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky*, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi*, Missouri*, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina*, Ohio, Oregon*, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming).

      Another factor would be locations of bases in the post-BRAC world. People are probably likely to retire to either (A) their home of record (which should be influenced by where recruits come from…) or (B) a place they were stationed. There are a lot of bases in the South. Not so many in PA or the North East in general, with a few notable exceptions (Fort Drum, for example).

      Obviously there are multiple variables here, which is why I hesitate to draw any conclusions about causality. But if income taxes and bases are the biggest factors, states like New Jersey (no income tax and a giant base in the form of McGuire-Dix) should be flush with vets. And they aren’t. Instead there is a remarkable correlation between ban states and depopulation of vets and shrinking recruitment.

      1. The cost of living is very high in New Jersey.

        A lot of vets don’t buy their first home until they get out of the service. It’s very expensive to buy a home in New Jersey versus other states like TN, FL, etc.

      2. A few corrections: Nevada also has no income tax. Neither does South Dakota, Washington, or Wyoming.

        1. That is to say, no income tax at all for individuals (for corporations it varies). It isn’t just veterans receiving retirement pay that don’t have to pay it in those states.

  4. I think one thing being overlooked is the fact that the overall decline in veterans from 2000-2012 is due to the dying off of the World War II generation. That era produced something like 10 million plus vets. Given that the youngest would now be in his or her mid 80s, it is not surprising to see numbers down. The state breakdown, however, clearly doesn’t follow this trend (one would think Florida’s vet population would be way down given the number of seniors there, but it’s way up).

    1. I concur and do point this out in the post. Per the VA, nationwide, the vet population is down 16.5% over the last decade. Most gun-ban (all except Maryland) states exceed that.

      Obviously the decline overall is due to the aging of the WW2 and Korea (and Vietnam to a lesser degree) generations, but that factor alone doesn’t explain the well above average veteran depopulation of the North East and Cali.

  5. Interesting article.

    Think of the larger implications. For example the common anti-gunner claim that the armed American public could never stand up to the U.S. military. If the two-Americas split really does devolve into civil conflict can anyone really believe the U.S. military, primarily recruited from the same pool of people that the gun-culture in rooted in, would obey a command to attack pro-gun people?

    The best anti-gunners could hope for is only a tiny fraction of the U.S. military would act in the way anti-gunners expect. The worst possibility for the anti-gunners is the U.S. military would actually actively side with us instead of them. My own estimation is the military would sit in their barracks and refuse to get involved.

    1. I suspect the trend in combat arms units (the pointy end of the spear) is even more pronounced. I don’t have data for that as Heritage did not break out MOS or specialty codes, but anecdotally it seems reasonable.

  6. Sebastian, this link to the VA has a state by state recap.

    Also WWII vets are dying at the rate of 11-1200/day, Korean vets at 600/day (many are both WWII and Korea), and Vietnam vets at 375-400/day (a few were WWII, Korea, and Vietnam). There are many implications in what he said, but bottom line it reflects what I’m seeing/hearing from folks still on active duty.

  7. This is a totally un-investigated theory that I came up with in the last five minutes, so feel free to question it, but don’t attack it yet as stupid: ;-)

    IMO Pennsylvania was over-represented in the military during the Vietnam War, especially by conscripts. The month I was drafted, 45,000 men were conscripted, and about 4,500 of them came from Pennsylvania. The next month was 55,000/5,500. I also have to add that many, even most of my fellow veterans from the era will represent themselves as “drafted,” but upon deeper questioning it will turn out they enlisted (and took an extra year!) to “avoid the draft.” They thought — or were told, falsely — that by enlisting they could exercise choices that would keep them out of Vietnam. The point being, even a lot of volunteerism was in fact coerced. (I’ll save my Old Story about how they tricked some draftees into enlisting, during Basic Training, for another time.)

    But the foundation of my theory is that a lot of us who were coerced did not take it kindly, and, not having a good experience, never encouraged our children in the direction of the military after it became all-volunteer. So if Pennsylvania is falling short in latter-day veterans, it could be a byproduct of being over-represented in wars past.

    1. That does sound interesting. I wonder if there would be some way to investigate further, by interviewing PA vets and draft board employees from the Vietnam era. In any case, a book project on PA Vietnam vets would be a fantastic idea.

      (Out of the blue, you’re not from Luzerne County, are you? I know someone from up there who’s a Vietnam vet and whose name fits yours. That would be quite a coincidence if you are in fact that person.)

      1. I think it could be investigated (and probably debunked?) by comparing the rate and/or proportion of enlistments in the services from different states over the years, and possibly correlating those to the same statistics from the Vietnam Era.

        Not to digress, but I thought in many ways the movie “The Deer Hunter” captured a bit of the Pennsylvania mood from that era.

        No, I’ve always been a Bucks Countian, at least since we moved here from Philly in 1947 while I was still a baby. I know of most of the people with my surname, here in the United States, but no one from Luzerne County. There is a related family (from back in the old country) centered on the Hazleton area, but they “Americanized” their surname (in their view at the time) by changing the last two letters from “is” to “y.” I have never found out in what way we are related.

    2. I don’t think that is necessarily just a PA thing. My father was similarly convinced to join up and while luck would have him not end up over there, it left a very bad taste in his mouth to the point of actively counseling me out of joining when I was about 50/50 on whether to join up or not. He won out on that argument.

      1. I am now especially interested, having gotten two general agreements with my theory, and no negative replies.

        It of course is not just a Pennsylvania thing, but as I suggested, the correlation might show up depending on how heavily a state was represented by coerced soldiers in the Vietnam War.

        I encountered numerous fellow Pennsylvanian’s when I was in the service, and almost all of us at the time fit a very typical profile; poor to lower-middle-class, who hadn’t gone to college right out of high school, and who were too unsophisticated to know (or want) to “work the system” to avoid the draft. It seemed men from our “coal country” and the rural counties surrounding Pittsburgh were heavily represented. It is likely that Pennsylvania just has a preponderance of kids who fit the profile that the services depended on at the time, so was a targeted source by the Selective Service. And at that, I am leaving out the urban, mostly black poor, who fit the same profiles, but had other factors working, too.

        I am wondering if the heavy representation of the urban working class and poor from the Boston area, during the Vietnam Era, might also be a partial explanation for the alleged dearth of latter-day veterans from Massachusetts, today.

        1. That is awful. From what you say about the way the draft was run it was a pretty ugly institution and the nation is well rid of it. Yet some Democrats today still yearn to bring back the draft!

          Regarding enlisting to avoid Vietnam duty — wouldn’t even relatively unsophisticated enlisted men understand the best way to avoid ground combat in Vietnam would be to enlist in the Navy or Air Force? I understand that even Navy/Air Force might end up in Vietnam, but at least not as a grunt in an infantry company.

          1. Air Force and Navy could afford to be highly selective in who they accepted as volunteers.

            I wonder how much of the Pennsylvania overrepresentation was do to the looming ball of suck and fail that the steel industry was moving into at that time?

    3. Ty for the post andy. It makes me realize that the last time a draft was done was vietnam. And the last time there was a call up was gulf war 1 which was just for the reserves.

      The demographic of servicemen are alot different now than then.

      1. Thomas, that is incorrect. Our Reservists and National Guardsmen proudly serve in numerous locations after having been “called up” to this day.

        1. Due to the way the Guard and Reserves were perceived during Vietnam, one of the biggest changes to the US military since integration was restructuring it so that it is literally impossible to conduct long duration combat operations without using the Reserves and Guard. Critical support functions can frequently be found only in the Reserves, whilst to get “surge” capacity in other functions we have to tap the Reserves.

          This was deliberate, in order to hamstring another Vietnam.

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