Document Type

Research Brief


University of Montana Rural Institute

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Demography, Population, and Ecology | Geography | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


The American Community Survey (ACS) provides disability data across a wide range of variables and geographies. In fact, the ACS provides county-level disability data for variables such as gender, race, veteran status, poverty status and employment for people with disabilities. This is beneficial to rural disability researchers as rural is most commonly classified at the county level. However, though the ACS is a rich and comprehensive data source it is not without limitations. Rural researchers in particular are acutely aware of these limitations. The ACS provides data estimates for disability in rural counties but because of the survey design these estimates are drawn from smaller sample sizes resulting in higher margins of error. These high margins of error make data less reliable at smaller geographies (e.g. counties) and forces researchers to aggregate the data to increase data validity. This limits the ability to analyze county level disability data, particularly for subgroups like race and ethnicity.


American Community Survey, ACS, Disability, Geography, Demographics, Race, Rural, Disability data, Rural data, Data limitations


© 2017 RTC:Rural

Granting Agency

National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR)


This research was supported by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), grant number 90RT5025. The opinions reflect those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the funding agency.

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