Demographics & Maps
According to the 2000 Census, 21% of the U.S. population or 59 million people live in rural America. Almost 11 million noninstitutionalized rural people age 5 and over have a disability.
How people are counted and how geographic areas are classified affects resource distribution and access to services. Many people believe there is only one definition of rural that everyone uses. However, federal and state programs use many distinct, inconsistent definitions to determine rural funding eligibility. For example, using the Department of Transportation’s definition of rural instead of the U.S. Census’ definition, there are about 89 million residents living in non-urbanized areas, 16.5 million of whom have a disability.
Transportation, healthcare, housing, and other agencies use varied population thresholds and geographic boundaries to determine eligibility for rural programs. Based on our research, only 35 U.S. counties (less than 1% of the 3,142 U.S. counties) have no rural people with disabilities, and almost half of rural Americans with disabilities live in metropolitan counties.
Because our research agenda cuts across locations, age groups, types of disability, gender, ethnicity, and occupation to address problems common to all rural Americans with disabilities, RTC: Rural explores, documents, and makes available information about people with disabilities in all U.S. counties, states, and congressional districts. We also make maps available which help people see the data’s geographic distribution.