A study conducted by the SBA’s Office of Advocacy in 2011 found that “military service is highly correlated with self-employment probability,” and that “veterans are at least 45 percent more likely than those with no active-duty military experience to be self-employed.”
This economic engine for the US cannot be overstated; in 2012, there were 2.5 million veteran-owned businesses generating $1.1 trillion in sales and $195 billion in annual payroll.
However, even in 2011, the SBA study noted a decline in veteran entrepreneurial activity. “The cohort of veterans who served in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War era were more likely to be self-employed relative to veterans serving since 2001, or Gulf War veterans.”
An obvious factor here is age; as noted by a 2016 US Bureau of Labor Statistics report, “the higher rate of self-employment among veterans also partially reflects the older age profile of veterans: 40 percent of employed veterans were aged 55 years and older, compared with 21 percent of nonveterans. Older workers are more likely to be self-employed than younger workers.”
Furthermore, given that veterans are older, we would naturally expect to see fewer veteran entrepreneurs as more veterans age out of the workforce. As such, the Kauffman Foundation noted that the share of all new entrepreneurs represented by veterans “was 12.3 percent in 1996 but had steadily declined to 5.6 percent by 2014, and that most of the decline was due to the declining share of veterans in the US working-age population.”