People wave flags during the annual Wellington Memorial Day Parade last year. This year’s parade will commence at Village Hall and make its way to the Wellington Veterans Memorial on Monday morning.LANNIS WATERS / THE PALM BEACH POST
Photo: Lannis Waters
Photo: Lannis Waters

Many veterans work for the feds: GSU prof says there’s a cost in diversity

Veterans are much more likely than non-vets to get hired by the federal government, but preferences for vets makes government payrolls less diverse, according to research by a Georgia State professor. 

Mainly by having more men.

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It is a trade-off: gratitude to vets against the value of having diversity, said Gregory Lewis, a professor of public policy at Georgia State.

“All policies come with costs,” Lewis said.

Lewis raised the somewhat controversial critique in an article he wrote online for The Conversation.

The government first started giving preferences to vets after the Civil War. The number of vets hired has soared in the past fifteen years, partly because of increased enlistments that accompanied the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

According to Lewis, 4.7 percent of Georgia’s full-time workers are on federal payrolls. Among veterans, 22 percent have federal jobs. Among non-vets, only 3 percent work for the feds.

The resulting workforce doesn’t look exactly like it would look without the vets.

“While it’s good that the nation thanks its troops, the strong preference for veterans has had some negative effects as well, particularly in terms of lessening the civil service’s diversity,” Lewis wrote.

More than anything else, the preferences for veterans make the federal workforce much more male than it would be otherwise. 

More than 80 percent of veterans are white and black men. That compares with 43.1 percent of non-veterans. 

There is also one way in which the vets may increase the diversity of the federal workforce, Lewis said: Class. 

“Veterans’ preference might increase economic diversity in the federal service because vets are more likely to come from lower class backgrounds,” he wrote.


Georgia veterans and federal jobs

Decade of birth

           % of vets with federal jobs

1940         11

1950         17

1960          21

1970          23

1980         38

1990         71 


Overall federal employment 

    Pct. by ethnicity and gender

                           Non-vets     Vets      | Total


White male     | 33.31          55.42          | 40.57 

White female | 32.03          9.46              | 24.62 

Black male      | 5.10           15.05            | 8.37 

Black female | 11.24           5.45             | 9.34 

Latino male    | 5.18             9.24             | 6.51 

Latina female | 5.20           1.95              | 4.13 

Asian male       | 4.10           2.79              | 3.67 

Asian female  | 3.84            0.63              | 2.78  

Sources: Census Bureau, American Community Survey, Gregory Lewis 


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