The following information provides details on the data available from RTC:Rural’s Disability Counts Data Finder. The data used covers the years indicated and consists of the most recent 5-year estimates for all counties in the US.
American Community Survey Disability Indicator Questions
The American Community Survey (ACS) uses questions related to difficulty and functional impairment to identify individuals who may experience a disability (ACS Table S1810). The data presented from the Disability Counts Data Finder for the different types of disability reflects the following responses:
- Rate of Vision Difficulty: Percentage of general population reporting a vision difficulty. For vision difficulty the ACS asks if a respondent is blind or has serious difficulty seeing, even when wearing glasses. If they answer "yes" they are classified as having a vision difficulty. This data is for all ages.
- Rate of Hearing Difficulty: Percentage of general population reporting a hearing disability. For hearing difficulty the ACS asks if a respondent is deaf or has serious difficulty hearing. If they answer "yes" they are classified as having a hearing difficulty. This data is for all ages.
- Rate of Cognitive Difficulty: Percentage of general population reporting a cognitive disability (ages 5 yrs +). For cognitive difficulty the ACS asks "because of a physical, mental, or emotional problem, does the respondent have difficulty remembering, concentrating, or making decisions?" If they answer "yes" they are classified as having a cognitive difficulty. This data is for ages 5 and up.
- Rate of Mobility Difficulty: Percentage of general population reporting a mobility disability (ages 5 yrs +). For ambulatory (i.e. mobility) difficulty the ACS asks if a respondent has serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs. If they answer "yes" they are classified as having a mobility difficulty. This data is for ages 5 and up.
- Rate of Self Care Difficulty: Percentage of general population reporting a self care disability (ages 5 yrs +). For self-care difficulty the ACS asks if a respondent has difficulty bathing or dressing. If they answer "yes" they are classified as having a self-care difficulty. This data is for ages 5 and up.
- Rate of Independent Living Difficulty: Percentage of general population reporting an independent living disability (ages 18 yrs +). For independent living difficulty the ACS asks because of a physical, mental, or emotional problem, does the respondent have difficulty doing errands alone such as visiting a doctor’s office or shopping. If they answer "yes" they are classified as having an independent living difficulty. The data presented here is for ages 18 and up, however the ACS collects this data for ages 15 and up.
Disability Rates among Certain Populations
According to the ACS definitions, if a respondent aged 15 years and older answered "yes" to any of the six disability indicator questions listed above, they are classified as having a disability. For children under 5 years old, only hearing and vision difficulty are used to determine disability status. For children between the ages of 5 and 14, disability status is determined from hearing, vision, cognitive, mobility (i.e. ambulatory), and self-care difficulties.
- Disability Rate of all Americans: Percentage of general population reporting a disability.
- Disability Rate among Males: Percentage of the male population reporting a disability.
- Disability Rate among Females: Percentage of female population reporting a disability.
- Disability Rate among Veterans: Percentage of veteran population reporting a disability (ages 18 yrs +).
Employment and Poverty Status of People with Disabilities
The following information is from the American Community Survey 5-year data employment estimates (Table C18120) and poverty estimates (Table C18130) by disability type. These indicate employment and poverty status for those people who answered "yes" to one of the six disability indicator questions listed above.
- Disability Employment Rate: Percentage of disability population that is employed in the labor force (ages 18-64 yrs).
- Disability Unemployment Rate: Percentage of disability population that is in the labor force but unemployed (ages 18-64 yrs).
- Disability Out of the Labor Force Rate: Percentage of disability population not in the labor force (ages 18-64 yrs).
- People are classified as being out of the labor force if they are not currently looking for work.
- Disability Poverty Rate: Percentage of disability population living in poverty.
- Group Quarters: The Census Bureau classifies all people not living in housing units as living in group quarters. A group quarters is a place where people live or stay, in a group living arrangement, that is owned or managed by an entity or organization providing housing and/or services for the residents. This is not a typical household-type living arrangement and does not include places like apartment complexes. These services may include custodial or medical care as well as other types of assistance, and residency is commonly restricted to those receiving these services. People living in group quarters are usually not related to each other. Group quarters include such places as college residence halls, residential treatment centers, skilled nursing facilities, group homes, military barracks, correctional facilities, and workers' dormitories.
- Institutional group quarters: Institutional group quarters are facilities that house those who are primarily ineligible, unable, or unlikely to participate in the labor force while resident. The institutionalized population is the population residing in institutional group quarters such as adult correctional facilities, juvenile facilities, skilled-nursing facilities, and other institutional facilities such as mental (psychiatric) hospitals and in-patient hospice facilities.
Institutionalized populations Limitations
The US Census bureau does not provide public access to data on disabled residents in group quarters at the county level. It also does not provide public data on detailed types of group quarters (both institutional and non-institutional) at any geography. Therefore, the estimates and population counts of people living in many types of congregate settings are unknown. For example, we do not know how many people are living in group homes for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, psychiatric facilities, intermediate care centers, border detention facilities and more.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) classifies counties as based on residential population and communing patters.
- Metropolitan: counties that are more urban and have an urban core of at least 50,000 people.
- Nonmetropolitan: counties that are more rural and are further divided into:
- Micropolitan: nonmetropolitan counties with an urban core between 10,000 to 50,000 people
- Noncore: all remaining nonmetropolitan counties not meeting the definition for micropolitan
Race and Ethnicity
- Race:The U.S. Census Bureau collects race data in accordance with guidelines provided by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and these data are based on self-identification. The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically. In addition, it is recognized that the categories of the race question include race and national origin or sociocultural groups. OMB requires that race data be collected for a minimum of five groups: White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native (AI/AN), Asian, and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander (NH/PI). OMB permits the Census Bureau to also use a sixth category – Some Other Race. Respondents may report more than one race.
- Ethnicity:The U.S. Census Bureau adheres to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) definition of ethnicity. There are two minimum categories for ethnicity: Hispanic or Latino and Not Hispanic or Latino. OMB considers race and Hispanic origin to be two separate and distinct concepts. Hispanics and Latinos may be of any race.
MOE (Margin of Error)
the MOE (Margin of Error) illustrates the reliability of data by indicating the possible range of values for a particular estimate; the larger the range, the less reliable the estimate.
- For example, if your data shows an 18% disability rate and a 4% MOE means that the actual disability rate likely falls within 4 percentage points from that rate (i.e. between 12% and 22%)
- High MOEs are particularly a concern for race and ethnicity data in lower population counties.
- If the MOE is too high, the data may be less representative or reliable. This dataset will indicate estimates with high MOEs with red font/highlight and an asterisk. A high MOE is one that is equal to or greater than 50% of the estimate.
- So, consider how you will use this data. You should likely select and note the MOE to be transparent about the reliability of your data.
- The American Community Survey (ACS) ( produces population estimates that they are 95% confident that the actual count is within the range of the margin of error.