My post on the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure report prompted a fine question: What is the poverty rate for people with disabilities in the Washington, D.C. area?
I knew the SPM had no answer, but was pretty sure other Census reports would. And indeed, I found some very disturbing figures.
Not to keep you in suspense, the relevant poverty rate for the metropolitan statistical area that includes the District of Columbia was 15.9% last year. But it was more than double that for the District itself. Now the deets.
Overall Poverty Rates for People With Disabilities
The American Community Survey — our best source for community-level data — tells us that 33.9% of District residents with disabilities lived in poverty last year. This is 15% higher than the poverty rate for the D.C. population as a whole. And it’s 11.5% higher than the rate for people with disabilities nationwide.
A third of poor District residents with disabilities lived in deep poverty, i.e., at or below half the applicable poverty threshold. This rate is also higher than the national rate.
All these rates, however, provide only a partial picture because the ACS limits most of its questions about disabilities to people who are at least five years old and all of them to disabilities that cause a “serious difficulty.” Questions limited to the five and older group refer to daily life activities.
What this means, among other things, is that young children who can see and hear just fine, but have some other physical disability — or any emotional or intellectual disability — don’t get counted. Nor, of course, do older people who choose not to acknowledge serious difficulties in such activities as making decisions for themselves.
More Older People With Disabilities, But Fewer Poor
As we’d expect, the percent of District residents with disabilities increases with age. The disability rate for children between the ages of five and seventeen was somewhat over 7.4% last year. It was barely higher for working-age adults, i.e., those 18-64 years old. But about a third of residents 65 and older had at least one disabling condition.
The poverty rates for disabled people in these age groups are just the opposite. A mind-boggling 45.5% of disabled children in the over-five age group lived in families with incomes below the poverty threshold last year — less than $23,865 for a couple with two children.
The poverty rate for working-age adults with disabilities was 36.9% — nearly two and a half times the rate of those whom the ACS classified as without a disability. It’s also about 10% higher than for seniors with disabilities.
So there are the numbers. How can we explain them? That’s a more complicated question than the one that prompted this post. But I’ll take a stab at it in the next.