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Veteran's most recent period of service

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VETLAST identifies the most recent period of service for individuals who served in the military forces of the United States (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard) in time of war or peace, but who were not in the armed forces at the time of the survey. Data is not available for 1966.

In the CPS, individuals were asked if they ever served on active duty in the U.S. armed forces and when that period of service occurred. Hypothetically, an individual could serve during more than one wartime era (e.g., during both World War II and the Korean War), but information was coded for the single most recent period of service until 2005.

Beginning in 2006, however, veterans could report up to four periods of service. While the most recent period of service is reported in VETLAST variable (comparable over time), the four variables: VET1, VET2, VET3, and VET4 are also available for the four periods of service for veterans.


Along with changes in the question universe, periods of service identified in the survey changed over time. For 1964-1968, periods identified were: Korean War; World War II; World War I; Peacetime period A (after January 1955, after the Korean War); and Peacetime period B (before June 1950, before the Korean War). Thereafter, periods of service identified were: Vietnam Era; Korean War; World War II; World War I; and Other Service. The computer-assisted interview form adopted beginning in 1994 gives precise dates for classifying these various responses, as follows: Vietnam Era (Aug '64 - Apr '75); Korean War (Jun '50 - Jan '55); WW II (Sep '40 - Jul '47); WW I (Apr '17 - Nov '18); Other service (all other periods). Beginning in 2006, the identified periods of service have changed once again.

Comparability with IPUMS-USA

More periods of service are identified in IPUMS-USA than in IPUMS-CPS. Veteran status was reported for women beginning in the 1980 census, but not until 1988 in the CPS. In the census, the lower age limit for this question was as follows: age 14 and older in 1960 and 1970; age 16 and older in 1980 and 1990; and age 17 and older in 2000. In the CPS, information was collected on persons age 14 and older through 1979, age 15 and older between 1980 and 2005, and age 17 and older beginning in 2006. The most important difference between the census and survey data relates to how many periods of military service are identified for respondents. In the census, respondents reported all periods of military service. For this reason, multiple IPUMS-USA variables give dichotomous responses about various periods of past military service. By contrast, in IPUMS-CPS, only the most recent period of military service was coded, and the information about periods of service is given in a single variable (until 2005). Analysts must exclude all but the most recent period of service for veterans identified in the census data to achieve comparability in IPUMS-USA and IPUMS-CPS. Because of this key difference--identifying the most recent service versus all periods of service--fewer veterans of a given period (e.g., World War II) will be identified in the CPS. The variable VETSTAT, a dichotomous indicator of past military service, is more comparable for IPUMS-USA and IPUMS-CPS.


  • 1964-1965: Civilian males age 14+ (pre-1968 samples do not include persons under age 14).
  • 1967: Civilian males age 14+ (pre-1968 samples do not include persons under age 14).
  • 1968-1979: Civilian males age 14+.
  • 1980-1987: Civilian males age 15+.
  • 1988-2005: Civilians age 15+.
  • 2006-2023: Civilians age 17+ who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.


Years Jan Feb ASEC Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1964 – 1965 - - X - - - - - - - - -
1967 – 2023 - - X - - - - - - - - -


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