Military veterans make up at least 7.1% of the population in nine counties in the 15-county Northwest Georgia region.
That's at or above the national average -- but not necessarily signifying a stronghold of service, according to details in a newly released chartbook by the Appalachian Regional Commission.
The ARC's annual update, "The Appalachian Region: A Data Overview from the 2016-2020 American Community Survey," features over 300,000 data points on its economy, income, employment, education and more. This one includes the first 10 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Each year, The Chartbook provides critical data about the Appalachian Region, enabling policymakers and ARC partners to make data-driven economic development decisions. This particular report, however, may be one of the most critical to date,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin.
Appalachia is made up of 423 counties across 13 states, from southern New York to northern Mississippi. In Georgia, it essentially covers the northern quarter of the state, excluding Fulton County.
Among the chapters in The Chartbook is a report on the veteran population — civilian men and women who have served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, the National Guard or Reserves, or in the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II.
Here's a look at how Northwest Georgia compares.
Overall, the non-Appalachian counties in Georgia house a greater share of veterans -- 8% -- than those in the northern swath. And the strongholds in the state's Appalachian region are to the east.
Fannin, Gilmer and Pickens counties are among the few with veterans making up at least 10% of their adult population.
In Floyd, Bartow, Polk, Paulding, Walker and Catoosa counties, the share of veterans ranges from the national average of 7.1% to 9.9% of the population.
The lowest concentrations of veterans in Northwest Georgia are in Chattooga, Gordon, Dade, Whitfield, Murray and Haralson counties.
While the report draws no conclusions about concentrations or trends, it provides researchers with a starting point in terms of age. In Appalachian Georgia, 17.9% of the people age 65 and older are veterans, compared to the national average of 17%.
At least 20% of the older residents in Catoosa, Paulding, Fannin, Gilmer and Pickens counties are veterans, most of whom served during World War II, Korea or Vietnam.
In Floyd, Polk, Chattooga and Walker counties, veterans make up between 17% and 19.9% of the population age 65 and older. Numbers are below the national average in Gordon, Bartow, Whitfield, Dade, Murray and Haralson counties.
Bartow, however, is one of several counties where the percentage of veterans in the younger age groups meets or exceeds the national average.
In the 35-64 age cohort, 5.9% nationwide are veterans; it's 5.8% in Appalachian Georgia and 8.3% in the rest of the state.
Bartow, Polk, Paulding, Walker and Catoosa have populations topping the national average, along with Fannin, Gilmer and Pickens counties. Most veterans of the 1991 Gulf War fall into this age group, as do the youngest Vietnam veterans.
Prior military service in the youngest group, age 18 to 34, was at 2.1% nationally, 2% in Appalachian Georgia and 2.6% in the rest of the state. In Northwest Georgia, the percent of young adult veterans was at least 2.1% in Bartow, Paulding, Haralson, Gilmer and Pickens counties.
Floyd County showed the largest decline in veterans in Northwest Georgia between the 2011-2015 and 2016-2020 chartbook data. The county lost at least 2.5% of its veterans over that period.
There was no change in Fannin and Gilmer counties and the 12 other Northwest Georgia counties showed smaller decreases. Nationally, the U.S. veteran population declined by 1.2%.