Many Portland residents rely on Social Security Disability benefits after suffering from a catastrophic injury or illness that makes them unable to continue working. Although disability benefits are essential to many Portland residents, disability payments are even more crucial to rural residents according to recent statistics. Rural Americans are 80 percent more likely to receive disability benefits than city residents according to the Daily Yonder, an online magazine targeted at rural Americans.
Just under 5 percent of adults qualify for disability benefits nationwide, but the contrast between urban and rural disability rates is staggering. Only 3.2 percent of adults in Washington D.C. collect disability benefits but the coal mining area of the Appalachian Mountains and areas of Missouri and Mississippi have counties where over 10 percent of the population relies on disability payments.
Approximately 7.6 percent of adults receive disability payments in rural counties and 6.5 percent of adults qualify for disability in counties with small cities with populations up to 50,000. The urban disability rate in the U.S. was only 4.2 percent in 2009.
Oregon was 32nd in the country for the percentage of the state population on disability. Just over 109,000 people in the state received disability benefits in 2009, accounting for 4.2 percent of the working-age population (ages 15-64). No Oregon counties made the top 50 county list for disability recipients. Only three of the 50 counties with the highest disability rates were considered urban and the county with the highest disability rate was rural Buchanan county in Virginia where 27.6 percent of the working age population was disabled.
Source: Daily Yonder, “The Geography of Disability,” Bill Bishop and Roberto Gallardo, Nov. 30, 2011