FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: THURSDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2008
Number of Americans With a Disability Reaches 54.4 Million
About one in five U.S. residents - 19
percent - reported some level of disability in 2005, according to a U.S. Census
Bureau report released today. These 54.4 million Americans are roughly equal
to the combined total populations of California and Florida.
Both the number and percentage of people
with disabilities were higher than in 2002, the last time the Census Bureau
collected such information. At that time, 51.2 million, or 18 percent, reported
Among those with a disability, 35 million,
or 12 percent of the population, were classified as having a severe disability,
according to Americans With Disabilities: 2005 [PDF].
Nearly half (46 percent) of people age
21 to 64 with a disability were employed, compared with 84 percent of people
in this age group without a disability. Among those with disabilities, 31
percent with severe disabilities and 75 percent with nonsevere disabilities
were employed. People with difficulty hearing were more likely to be employed
than those with difficulty seeing (59 percent compared with 41 percent).
A portion of people with disabilities
— 11 million age 6 and older — needed personal assistance with
everyday activities. These activities include such tasks as getting around
inside the home, taking a bath or shower, preparing meals and performing light
Other important findings:
- Among people 15 and older, 7.8 million (3 percent) had difficulty hearing
a normal conversation, including 1 million being unable to hear at all.
Although not part of the definition of disability used in the report, 4.3
million people reported using a hearing aid.
- Roughly 3.3 million people, or 1 percent, age 15 and older used a wheelchair
or similar device, with 10.2 million, or 4 percent, using a cane, crutches
- Nearly 7.8 million people age 15 and older had difficulty seeing words
or letters in ordinary newspaper print, including 1.8 million being completely
unable to see.
- More than 16 million people had difficulty with cognitive, mental or emotional
functioning. This included 8.4 million with one or more problems that interfere
with daily activities, such as frequently being depressed or anxious, trouble
getting along with others, trouble concentrating and trouble coping with
- The chances of having a disability increase with age: 18.1 million people
65 and older, or 52 percent, had a disability. Of this number, 12.9 million,
or 37 percent, had a severe disability. For people 80 and older, the disability
rate was 71 percent, with 56 percent having a severe disability.
- Among people 16 to 64, 13.3 million, or 7 percent, reported difficulty
finding a job or remaining employed because of a health-related condition.
- Among people 25 to 64 with a severe disability, 27 percent were in poverty,
compared with 12 percent for people with a nonsevere disability and 9 percent
for those without a disability.
- Median monthly earnings were $1,458 for people with a severe disability,
$2,250 for people with a nonsevere disability and $2,539 for those with
- Parents reported that 228,000 children under age 3, or 2 percent, had
a disability. Specifically, they either had a developmental delay or difficulty
moving their arms or legs. In addition, there were 475,000 children 3 to
5 years, or 4 percent, with a disability, which meant they had either a
developmental delay or difficulty walking, running or playing.
- There were 4.7 million children 6 to 14, or 13 percent, with a disability.
The most prevalent type was difficulty doing regular schoolwork (2.5 million,
or 7 percent).
The Survey of Income and Program Participation
produces national-level estimates for the U.S. resident population and subgroups,
and allows for the observation of trends over time, particularly of selected
characteristics such as income, eligibility for and participation in transfer
programs, household and family composition, labor force behavior and other