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Residents of rural California counties more likely to receive SSD

We have repeatedly reported on the unprecedented increase in applications and approvals for Social Security Disability. In 2009, nearly 9.5 million Americans received Social Security Disability benefits, an increase of 3 million recipients in just under 10 years. And with no relief on the horizon for the job market and stagnant economy, that number will likely continue to grow.

An interesting new report indicates that certain areas of the country depend on Social Security Disability more than others. Specifically, residents of rural areas receive SSD benefits at a higher rate than people who live in metropolitan areas.

According to 2009 data from the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau, 4.6 percent of American adults receive SSD benefits across the board. However, a further examination of this statistic reveals more about recipients. About 7.6 percent of adults living in rural counties, 6.5 percent of adults living in counties with small cities, and 4.2 percent of adults living in metropolitan areas received SSD benefit payments in 2009.

In a listing of the 50 U.S. counties with the highest percentage of adults receiving Social Security Disability benefits, 42 counties (including the top 25) are in rural areas. Five of the counties contain small cities, and three are considered urban.

There are many reasons for this disparity. First, jobs in rural counties are more likely to require manual labor, increasing the chances that workers will be disabled either on the job or as a result of their job duties. Second, there is generally a higher unemployment rate in rural areas, which has only grown higher as the economy has struggled.

Source: Daily Yonder, "The Geography of Disability," Bill Bishop and Roberto Gallardo, Nov. 30, 2011

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