Between 1996 and 2015, the number of working-age adults receiving federal disability payments increased dramatically across the country. Rural America experienced the most rapid increase in disability rates, with as many as one-third of working-age adults living on monthly disability checks. This increase has been partly driven by demographic changes that are now slowing as baby-boomers with disabilities age into retirement.
Disability rates by county in 2004
Disability rates by county in 2015
Disability rate includes individuals on SSI, SSDI, or both. Data suppressed in some counties due to small population.
Sources: Social Security Administration SSDI Annual Report, 2004 and 2015; Social Security Administration SSI Annual Report, 2004 and 2015.
Increase in Disability Unemployment in Rural America
The increases have been worse in working-class areas, worse still in communities where residents are older, and worst of all in places with shrinking populations and few immigrants.
All but three of the 136 counties with the highest rates of disability were rural.
These counties spread out from northern Michigan, the boot heel of Missouri and Appalachia, and into the Deep South. They are largely racially homogeneous. Eighteen of the counties were majority black, but the remaining counties were, on average, 87 percent white.