Poverty for Disabled Adults Up 50%

This week I am going to write a series of posts on the economic plight of disabled adults between 2000 and 2013 using the American Community Survey. Today's post is primarily about poverty.

Before getting into the poverty numbers, it's important first to establish what percent of adults are disabled. To do this, I add up the number of adults between the ages of 25 and 64 who have a cognitive, ambulatory, independent living, self-care, hearing, or vision disability. Then I divide that number by the total number of adults between the ages of 25 and 64. The result looks like this:

Over this period, the overall rate of disability bounced around from 11.1% to 13%. It was somewhat lower in later years than in earlier years, but it did not change a great deal.

However, the percentage of disabled people who were impoverished did change a lot, moving up every single year except 2013.

Overall, the adult disability poverty rate increased from 19.9% in 2000 to 30.5% in 2013, an increase of 53%. This is quite massive both in terms of percentage and percentage points. Note that the poverty metric being used in the above graph is the official poverty metric, which includes incomes from the two main disability benefit programs (SSI and SSDI) in its poverty calculations.

If the disability poverty rate had not gone up over the period, then, in 2013, we would have had 2.1 million fewer impoverished disabled adults.

During this same period, nondisabled adults also saw an increase in poverty.

In 2000, the nondisabled poverty rate for adults aged 25-64 was 7.4%. In 2013, it was 12%. This is an increase of 61%. During this period, the ratio of disabled poverty to nondisabled poverty bounced around between 2.6 and 3. Which is to say that, during this period, disabled adults were 2.6x to 3x more likely to be in poverty than nondisabled adults.

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