Distribution of Disability by Geography

This article has some fascinating statistics on disability payments, arranged geographically. Some coal mining areas of Kentucky and West Virginia have 25% or more of its working-age population disabled. At the other end of the spectrum, Utah has 2.8% of its population counted as disabled.

The Social Security disability program started in 1957 as a way to help people who can’t work because of health problems. There has been a surge of applicants to the program over the last decade. There were 6.6 million beneficiaries in 2000. By 2009, there were 9.6 million.

The average monthly benefit in 2009 was $1,064.

Currently, the disability fund is kept separate from retirement benefits and has a much smaller cushion of reserves.

Disability payments are concentrated in counties where the jobs require manual labor and where unemployment is traditionally high. Mining and timbering are major industries in many of the counties with the highest percentages of disability beneficiaries. These are also counties with historically high rates of unemployment.

Here is a list of the 50 counties in the country with the highest percentages of working age adults receiving Social Security disability benefits in 2009. Only three of the 50 are urban counties. Five contain small cities. The other 42 of the top 50 are rural. Read on: