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New Report Details Trends, Barriers for Pennsylvanians with Disabilities

February 28, 2019

According to a data analysis of U.S. Census data, conducted by the Pennsylvania State Data Center (PDSC), Pennsylvania has the nation’s fifth-largest population of persons with disabilities and the 16th highest population of persons with disabilities (tied with Michigan). The analysis found that the majority of Pennsylvanians with disabilities are female and that the most common disabilities were ambulatory or movement-based (i.e., 7.4% of Pennsylvanians reported ambulatory disabilities while 5.7% reported cognitive-based disabilities).

The PDSC Research Brief about “Disability in the Commonwealth, 2013-2017” also found that those with disabilities have lower educational attainment and earnings than those without disabilities. For example, 20.3 percent of Pennsylvanians with disabilities have less than a high school diploma (compared with 7.6% of Pennsylvanians without disabilities) and 14.2 percent earned a bachelor’s degree (compared with 34% of those without disabilities). The median income for Pennsylvanians with disabilities was significantly lower than that of Pennsylvanians without disabilities ($21,696 versus $34,607, respectively).

In addition, PDSC’s analysis indicated that some racial and ethnic minorities (black or African Americans, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders, and those identifying “other race”) were more likely than the commonwealth’s white population to have a disability during 2017.

HAP’s analysis of the same dataset also indicated that Pennsylvanians living with disabilities were more likely to be employed full-time year round than their counterparts nationally. Specifically, 5 percent of Pennsylvanian and 4percent of American full-time, year-round employees reported a disability in 2017. Of the population who did not work during 2017, those reporting disability was slightly higher in the commonwealth (3.1%) compared with the U.S. average (2.7%).

Nearly 1.6 million Pennsylvanians are enrolled in Medicare, which funds health care for the aged and those living with disabilities, among others; and these trends underscore the need to preserve funding for this vital program. HAP will continue to monitor key trends related to the health and wellbeing of all Pennsylvanians, including these vulnerable populations.

For more information, contact Sari Siegel, PhD, HAP’s vice president, health care research.

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