RTC:Rural’s presentation at the 2017 American Association of Geographers annual meeting generated enthusiastic conversation about the values and challenges of using big data to address rural issues. Andrew Myers, Research Associate at RTC: Rural, recently returned from this conference, held in Boston, MA. There, he presented RTC:Rural research on current disability patterns in rural America with a focus on employment rates. His presentation, titled “Current Disability Patterns in Rural America,” was part of the Geographies of Disability 1: Mapping and Accessibility session. Coauthors include RTC:Rural Research Associate Lillie Greiman and University of Montana graduate student Kourtney Johnson.
The AAG’s Disability Specialty Group brought international researchers together to share the latest geographical research about disability. Myers is a board member of the AAG Disability Specialty Group, and helped organize the “Geographies of Disability” track at the conference.
Using data from the American Community Survey, Myers, Greiman, and Johnson found that the national disability rate in the United States is 12.5%. When they looked at the county level, they found that disability rates were higher in rural counties, at 17.7%, than in urban ones, with rates of only 11.8%.
Overall, employment rates for people with disabilities are lower in rural areas, which follows the national trend of lower employment rates in rural areas. However, said Myers, “It would be misleading to say that rates of employment [for people with disabilities] always go down as you get more rural. In fact, in some rural communities employment rates of people with disabilities are higher than the national average of 33%.”
Myers, Greiman, and Johnson have a number of hypotheses they are investigating, and are currently writing up their findings for publication. Continue reading