Role of Disabilities Ignored for Tens of Millions Experiencing Income PovertyNearly half of all working age adults experiencing poverty have a disability.

Nearly half of all working age adults experiencing poverty have a disability.

For Immediate Release: September 9, 2009
Contact: Alan Barber, (202) 293-5380 x115

Washington, D.C.- When the Census Bureau releases its yearly data on income
poverty this Thursday, there will likely be little focus on disability as a
cause and consequence of poverty. Yet, as a new report from the Center for
Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) shows, the share of people experiencing income poverty who have
disabilities is far larger than conventionally understood. Nearly half of
all working-age adults experiencing poverty on an annual basis have a
disability, and more than half of household heads will experience a period
of disability by their
mid-50s.

The paper, ” Half in Ten: Why Taking Disability into Account is Essential to
Reducing Income Poverty and Expanding Economic Inclusion
,” reviews recent research on disability and poverty that finds higher rates
of disability over the life cycle and among persons experiencing poverty
than earlier research. This research employs newer, sophisticated data
sources and defines disability in a way more consistent with the modern
consensus. Among the key findings:

  • Almost half of working-age adults who experience income poverty for at
    least a 12-month period have one or more disabilities.
  • Nearly two-thirds of working-age adults who experience consistent income
    poverty-more than 36 months of income poverty during a 48-month period-have
    one or more disabilities.
  • Male household heads reaching their mid-50s have a 53 percent chance of
    having been disabled at least once and a 19 percent chance of having begun a
    chronic and severe disability.
  • People with disabilities are much more likely to experience various forms
    of material hardship-including food insecurity, not getting needed medical
    or dental care, and not being able to pay rent, mortgage, and utility
    bills-than people without disabilities, even after controlling for income
    and other characteristics.
  • Measures of income poverty that fail to take disability into account
    likely underestimate the income people with disabilities need to meet basic
    needs.

“These new findings show that any serious attempt at an agenda to reduce
income poverty must take disability into account as both a cause and
consequence of poverty,” said Shawn Fremstad, the author of the report. “Of
particular importance,” he adds, “are policies to ensure that all Americans
have health insurance and quality care, provide paid-sick-days and
paid-sick-leave to workers, and the modernization of Social Security for
people with disabilities.”

The full report can be found at http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/poverty-disability-2009-09.pdf.

About The Center for Economic and Policy Research is an independent,
nonpartisan think tank that was established to promote democratic debate on
the most important economic and social issues that affect people’s lives.
CEPR’s Advisory Board includes Nobel Laureate economists Robert Solow and
Joseph Stiglitz; Janet
Gornick, Professor at the CUNY Graduate Center and Director of the
Luxembourg Income Study; Richard Freeman, Professor of Economics at Harvard
University; and Eileen Appelbaum, Professor and Director of the Center for
Women and Work at Rutgers University.

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