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RTC:Rural study finds longstanding interpretation of disability data incomplete

Researchers with RTC:Rural have shown that the standardized disability questions used by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services identify two distinct groups of people with disabilities: those with permanent disability and those with temporary disability. Their findings were published today in the American Journal of Public Health: click here to read the full journal article.

Man with cane walking in front of farm

Researchers at RTC:Rural have shown that the standardized disability questions used by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services identify two distinct groups of people with disabilities: those with permanent disability and those with temporary disability.

The findings contradict the long-standing assumption by researchers and policymakers who use HHS disability data that it represents only people with long-term disabilities. The RTC:Rural study clarifies the survey collects information from two important subgroups: those with permanent disability, and those experiencing a temporary disability at the time of the survey.

The title of the paper is “Disability Items from the Current Population Survey (2008-2015) and Permanent Versus Temporary Disability Status.” Coauthors on the study include Bryce Ward, associate director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at UM; RTC:Rural research associates Andrew Myers and Jennifer Wong; and Craig Ravesloot, RTC:Rural director.

“Our findings suggest that the current understanding of the entire population of people with disabilities based on HHS data is incomplete, because we have not yet accurately described the characteristics and status of these two subgroups,” said Ravesloot. “This can potentially have huge implications in public health policies.”

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