Nearly 1 in 5 People Have a Disability in the U.S.,
Census Bureau Reports
Report Released to Coincide with 22nd Anniversary of the ADA
About 56.7 million people ─ 19 percent of the population ─ had a disability in 2010, according to a broad definition of disability, with more than half of them reporting the disability was severe, according to a comprehensive report on this population released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The report, Americans with Disabilities: 2010, presents estimates of disability status and type and is the first such report with analysis since the Census Bureau published statistics in a similar report about the 2005 population of people with disabilities. According to the report, the total number of people with a disability increased by 2.2 million over the period, but the percentage remained statistically unchanged. Both the number and percentage with a severe disability rose, however. Likewise, the number and percentage needing assistance also both increased.
“This week, we observe the 22nd anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, a milestone law that guarantees equal opportunity for people with disabilities,” said Census Bureau demographer Matthew Brault. “On this important anniversary, this report presents a barometer of the well-being of this population in areas such as employment, income and poverty status.”
The statistics come from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, which contains supplemental questions on whether respondents had difficulty performing a specific set of functional and participatory activities. For many activities, if a respondent reported difficulty, a follow-up question was asked to determine the severity of the limitation, hence, the distinction between a “severe” and “nonsevere” disability. The data were collected from May through August 2010. Disability statistics from this survey are used by agencies — such as the Social Security Administration, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Administration on Aging — to assist with program planning and management.
The report shows that 41 percent of those age 21 to 64 with any disability were employed, compared with 79 percent of those with no disability. Along with the lower likelihood of having a job came the higher likelihood of experiencing persistent poverty; that is, continuous poverty over a 24-month period. Among people age 15 to 64 with severe disabilities, 10.8 percent experienced persistent poverty; the same was true for 4.9 percent of those with a nonsevere disability and 3.8 percent of those with no disability.
— People in the oldest age group ─ 80 and older ─ were about eight times more likely to have
a disability as those in the youngest group ─ younger than 15 (71 percent compared with
8 percent). The probability of having a severe disability is only one in 20 for those 15 to
while it is one in four for those 65 to 69.
— About 8.1 million people had difficulty seeing, including 2.0 million who were blind or
unable to see.
— About 7.6 million people experienced difficulty hearing, including 1.1 million whose
difficulty was severe. About 5.6 million used a hearing aid.
— Roughly 30.6 million had difficulty walking or climbing stairs, or used a wheelchair, cane,
crutches or walker.
— About 19.9 million people had difficulty lifting and grasping. This includes, for instance,
trouble lifting an object like a bag of groceries, or grasping a glass or a pencil.
— Difficulty with at least one activity of daily living was cited by 9.4 million
noninstitutionalized adults. These activities included getting around inside the home,
bathing, dressing and eating. Of these people, 5 million needed the assistance of others to
perform such an activity.
— About 15.5 million adults had difficulties with one or more instrumental activities of daily
living. These activities included doing housework, using the phone and preparing meals.
Of these, nearly 12 million required assistance.
— Approximately 2.4 million had Alzheimer’s disease, senility or dementia.
— Being frequently depressed or anxious such that it interfered with ordinary activities was
reported by 7.0 million adults.
— Adults age 21 to 64 with disabilities had median monthly earnings of $1,961 compared
with $2,724 for those with no disability.
— Overall, the uninsured rates for adults 15 to 64 were not statistically different by disability
status: 21.0 percent for people with severe disabilities, 21.3 percent for those with
nonsevere disabilities and 21.9 percent for those with no disability.
In addition to the statistics from this report, the Census Bureau also produces annual disability estimates from the American Community Survey (ACS). While the ACS uses a different definition of disability than in this report, it is capable of producing estimates of the population with disabilities at subnational geographies like states, counties, places and metropolitan areas. The Census Bureau has been collecting data about certain disabilities since 1830, when Congress added questions to the census on difficulty hearing, seeing and speaking.