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Chartbook on Work and Disability

Section 1: Prevalence of Disability Among Working-age People

1.1. How many working-age people in the United States have a disability?

According to the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), 32.1 million working-age people (or 18.7% of the population age 15 to 64) have a disability. The SIPP provides an opportunity to examine disability and work using a definition of disability consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Compared to information from the National Health Interview Survey or the Current Population Survey, the SIPP definition of disability is more broad-based, covering a variety of limitations that may or may not be related to work. The SIPP definition clearly includes people who have reported being limited or unable to work as well as those who have qualified for a Social Security program based on inability to work. But the SIPP definition also includes people who use wheelchairs, report functional limitations or have other specified conditions, but may be fully employed and report no limitation in the amount or kind of work. Using the SIPP definitions, 18.7% of the working-age population 18-64 (32.1 million people) report a disability. Of these, severe disabilities were reported by 8.7% (14.9 million); non-severe disabilities account for the other 10% (17.2 million).

Almost twenty percent of people ages 15-64 report some level of disability.

Circle graph showing percentage of people ages 15-64 with severe and non-severe disabilities.

Figure 1: Disability status of non-institutionalized population, 15-64 years

Source: McNeil (1997), Americans With Disabilities: 1994-95.

Surveys: SIPP, 1994-95.

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