Document Type

Fact Sheet


University of Montana Rural Institute

Publication Date



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


How do disability rates vary across the United States and between rural and urban areas? For over a decade, this question could not be answered with current public data. In December 2013, however, the US Census Bureau released the 2008-2012 American Community Survey (ACS) summary data. These data represent the first opportunity since the 2000 Census to answer questions about disability prevalence for the entire nation, and rural and urban geographies. These data can help inform critical disability policy decisions as well as guide future research. The ACS does not directly measure disability. Rather, it evaluates disability in terms of functional impairment and assumes that a person who reports having at least one of six functional impairments (hearing difficulty, vision difficulty, cognitive difficulty, ambulatory difficulty, self-care difficulty, and independent living difficulty) has a disability. As such, the ACS data allows us to explore disability, or impairment, for different types of geographies, with the focus here on impairment rates in rural areas versus urban areas.


community participation and independent living, geography, rural, disability


© 2014 RTC:Rural.

Granting Agency

National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research


Our research is supported by grant #H133B130028 from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Dept. of Education.

Project Number