Disability can be both a cause and consequence of economic insecurity. It is a cause because disability or illness can lead to job loss and reduced earnings, barriers to education and skills development, significant additional expenses, and many other challenges that can lead to economic hardship. It can also be a consequence because poverty and economic insecurity can limit access to health care and preventive services and increase the likelihood that a person lives and works in an environment that may adversely affect health. As a result, poverty and disability go hand in hand.
Yet the intersection of disability and poverty is too rarely discussed. In fact, despite the fact that 1 in 5 Americans live with disabilities, the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual report detailing income, poverty, and health insurance coverage did not even include poverty rates for people with disabilities until recently. It does now, and the most recent available data put the poverty rate for working-age people with disabilities at 34.5 percent in 2013, compared with 12.2 percent for those without disabilities.
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