Veterans account for almost 10% of the Tri-Cities’ population

The Tri-Cities is veteran rich area.  According to the most current Census estimates there are a little more than 39,400 vets living the seven-county region. That’s a 9.5% share of the total population compared to Tennessee’s 8.2% share and the U.S. share of 7.1%.

There are multiple reasons the Tri-Cities has a proportionally larger veteran population. It has a highly rated VA hospital and health care system. The region has veteran-friendly colleges and universities. There’s a vibrant support system in the Tri-Cities Military Affairs Council. The cost of living and housing is attractive to vets who are retired, getting ready to retire or going to school before launching a new career in the civilian sector.  And then there’s the vets’ overall preference about where they live. Most tend to live in affordable smaller metro and rural areas. This is especially true of Vietnam vets. Gulf War vets tend to local closer to areas with active military bases and a higher population share of active-duty residents.

From a demographic perspective, veterans are just like those who didn’t serve in many ways. But there are variances. For instance. A higher share of them are college-educated and overall they’re a little better educated than the non-vets in the age subgroups. They have a higher homeownership rate, more of them had 2018 wages at or above the poverty level than their civilian counterparts, and their subgroup tends to have more disabilities.


Here’s how a drill down on the local veteran population by MSA and their period of service looks:

WW II – Kingsport-Bristol, 364. Johnson City, 790.

Korean War – Kingsport-Bristol, 1,530. Johnson City, 894.

Vietnam – Kingsport-Bristol, 9,532. Johnson City, 5,550.

Gulf War (1990-2001) – Kingsport-Bristol, 4,125. Johnson City, 3,486.

Gulf War (2001 or later) – Kingsport-Bristol, 3,032. Johnson City, 3,291.


The gender makeup for local vets is weighted toward men. Kingsport-Bristol’s veteran population is 31,712 male and 779 female. In the Johnson City MSA, it’s 15,534 men and 1,382 women.

Census breaks its population by age sampling of veterans into five categories.  The local population share for veterans looks like the overall population in the 55 to 54 years-old group. But that’s the only instance.  Here’s how that population by age drill-down looks by MSA for the number of local vet population share of the total population compared to non-vets.


  • 18 to 34: Vets 6% – non-vets 25.4%.
  • 35 to 54: Vets 18.7% – non-vets 32.5%.
  • 55 to 65: Vets 16.6% – non-vets 17.8%.
  • 65 to 74: Vets 30.9% – non vets 14.1%.
  • 75 and older: Vets 27.8% – non vets 10.2%.


  • 18 to 34: Vets: 7% – non-vets 29.7%.
  • 35 to 54: Vets: 26.1% – non-vets 31.6%.
  • 55 to 65: Vets: 15.9% – non-vets 17.7%.
  • 65 to 74: Vets 25.2% – non-vets 12.5%.
  • 75 and older: Vets: 28.5% – non-vets 8.4%.


The education drill-downs sample is the civilization population 25 years old and older.


  • Less than high school graduate – Vets, 11%, Non-vets, 13.5%.
  • High School graduate (includes equivalency) – Vets, 32.2%. Non-vets 36.6%
  • Some college or associate degree – Vets 32.8%. Non-Vets 29%.
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher – Vets 24%. Non-vets 20.9%.


  • Less than a high school graduate – Vets, 6.2%. Non-vets, 13.5%
  • High school graduate (includes equivalency) – Vets, 31.1%. Non-Vets 31%
  • Some college or an associate degree – Vets, 39.7%. Non-vets, 27.4%.
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher – Vets, 23%, Non-vets, 28%.


The drill-down of median income in the last 12 months shows vets in both metro areas had high earnings than non-vets. This comparison is based on median incomes – in 2018 inflation-adjusted dollars. The sample group for this comparison is the civilian population 18 years old or older with income. The non-gender baseline was vets $33,169, non-vets $24,019.


Male vets had a $31587 median income in 2018 compared to $18,117 for non-vets. Female vets had a $15,631 median compared to $18,600 for female non-vets.


The opposite was the case for female vets in the Johnson City MSA. They had median earnings of $21,491 compared to $20,521 for female non-vets. Male Johnson City vets had $34,023 median earnings compared to $30,042 for non-vets.

Median earnings if the point where half are higher, and half are lower.


It makes sense that the veteran population would have a higher share of disabilities than non-veterans. In Kingsport-Bristol, 40.8% of the veterans had a disability in the 2018 report compared to 26.3% of the non-vet population.

The numbers in Johnson City were about the same. The sales of vets with a disability was 41.9% while it was 21.9% for non-vets.

Tri-Cities Military Affairs Council President Ernie Rumsby said the Census numbers are encouraging because it shows veterans are an important part of the region’s population. “Sometimes people think that veterans impose more service demands on the economy than they add to it. The current numbers show that’s not always the case.” It’s also encouraging that veterans make up a larger share of the local population than what you see in Tennessee and nationwide. That means veterans see value and add value when they relocated here.

Data source: Table S2101 Veteran Status – 2018 1-year American Community Survey



2 replies

  1. Great work Don and much appreciated


  1. Tri-Cities veterans by the numbers - DON FENLEY @ CORE DATA