Access to Disability Data

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Chartbook on Work and Disability

Section 1: Prevalence of Disability Among Working-age People

1.4. How many people have a work disability or a severe work disability?

The Current Population Survey (CPS) asks people whether they have a work disability (a condition that limits the kind or amount of work they can do) or a severe work disability (condition prevents them from working). According to this definition, 17.2 million people, or 9.9% of the 1998 working-age U.S. population (16-64 years old) had a disability that prevents or limits work.

The CPS classified people as having a severe work disability if (1) they did not work in the survey week because of a long-term physical or mental illness that prevents the performance of any kind of work, (2) they did not work at all in the previous year because of illness or disability, (3) they were under 65 years of age and covered by Medicare, or (4) they were under 65 years of age and a recipient of Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

It is estimated that 11.3 million people of working age (16-64 years old) have a severe work disability. Those with a severe work disability comprise 65.8% of the 17.2 million people with a work disability as measured by the CPS.

Nearly two-thirds of all work disabilities are severe.

Circle graph showing percentage of work disabilities that are severe.

Figure 4: Percentage of work disability that is severe vs. non-severe, 16-64

Source: U. S. Bureau of the Census, Table 198.

Surveys: CPS, 1998.

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