One in nine Virginians, nearly one million people, has a disability, according to numbers extracted from the 2015 American Consumer Survey by the Demographics Research Group at the University of Virginia.
The incidence of disability is strongly correlated with age — the elderly suffer a significantly higher rate of disabilities. But hundreds of thousands of the disabled fall into the 35- to 65-year-old age group, accounting for 9.3% of the working-age population. Of those with disabilities in the working-age population, most did not work, according to the SnapChat data, but about 44% of them did work full- or part-time jobs.
The snapshot in time is interesting, but not as interesting as the trend lines. As an aging population swells the number of elderly, one would expect an increase in the number of disabled. By contrast, with the decline of hard manual labor and continual advances in medicine, one would expect that the number of disabled in the working-age population would shrink.
But the number of disabled working-age Americans has steadily increased over the years. According to Social Security Administration (SSA) data, 5.3 million Americans were receiving disability benefits in 2001. That number increased relentlessly at a rate of 4% to 6% yearly through 2011. Then the rate of increase began slowing, and the number shrank by half a percent in 2015.
One theory to explain the increasing number of disabled is economic insecurity and unemployment. One might expect people to seek disability benefits during times of economic distress. Yet that is not borne out by the SSA data — there was only a modest increase in the number of disability applications during the recession and its immediate aftermath.
The change that jumps out in this graph is the dramatic fall-off in the increase in Americans receiving disabilities in recent years. Has the “market” been saturated — have so many people been designated as disabled that there’s no one left who remotely qualifies? Alternatively, have the standards changed — has there been some kind of administrative crackdown that received no news coverage? I don’t know. But the change is dramatic, and it deserves an explanation.There are currently no comments highlighted.