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The 2000 Census and People with Disabilities
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July 23, 2002 -- The 2000 Census found nearly 50 million Americans who said they had a disability -- a ratio of nearly one in every five residents. While the Census did not count children 5 and under, this decennial Census asked the most questions to date regarding disability status. The Census found that:

  • 5.2 million were between the ages of 5 and 20. This was 8 percent of people in this age group.
  • 30.6 million were between the ages of 21 and 64. Fifty-seven percent of them were employed.
  • 14.0 million were 65 and over. Those with disabilities comprised 42 percent of people in this age group.

A number of news stories have reported Census findings regarding disability; on July 5, the Washington Post reported that "U.S. Counts One in 12 Children As Disabled" (story online at ). The Raleigh News & Observer's Ned Glascock reported June 2 that "Among people with disabilities in North Carolina in their prime working years, ages 21 to 64, 42 percent were unemployed in 2000, according to new statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau" and noted that this figure "was double the rate for those without disabilities" (story online at ).

You can find out the disability Census statistics for your community by looking at the Census Bureau Profiles for your locality. To do this, go to then select your your state and your town. On the resulting PDF file, look at Table DP-2 (bottom of second page). You may want to compare the statistics for your local area with other parts of the country, or with nearby towns.

The Census Bureau has set up a web page that also provides interesting statistics on disability from previous surveys -- the 1997 Survey of Income and Program Participation and the March 2001 supplement to the Current Population Survey. To learn more, go to

Differences in the figures reported come about as a result of the different questions asked. Different people will identify as disabled depending on how a particular question is worded. Statistics experts say that although the 2000 Census's questions on disability were not ideal, they were better than what has gone before. For a fuller discussion of the kinds of questions asked and the data they yield, and what it all means, visit the Center for An Accessible Society web page

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