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New Brief Highlights the Extra Costs of Living for Adults with Disabilities in the U.S.

October 27, 2020
Source: National Disability Institute (NDI)

Today, National Disability Institute, in partnership with the Stony Brook University School of Social Welfare and the University of Tennessee College of Social Work, released the brief, The Extra Costs of Living with a Disability in the U.S. – Resetting the Policy Table. The brief summarizes a working paper also released today providing estimates from four nationally representative surveys of the extra costs of living with a disability in the United States. An infographic highlighting key statistics is also available.

The research estimates that households containing an adult with a work-disability require, on average, 28 percent more income (or an additional $17,690 a year for a household at the median income level) to obtain the same standard of living as a comparable household without a member with a disability.

“This is some of the most important research of our time. We have known, anecdotally, that living with a disability incurs extra costs,” said Elizabeth Jennings, Acting Executive Director, National Disability Institute. “The research not only proves that these extra costs exist, it catalogs and quantifies them – providing our first understanding of just how much more individuals with a disability have to earn to maintain the same financial standing as their non-disabled peers. We have substantially underestimated the financial challenges that households with disabilities may face. Now the question remains, what can we, as a country, do – through policy and practice – to address this inequality?”

“With this research, we hope to inform the national conversation about the extra costs of disability, as well as the implications of these expenses on the well-being of the 20 million working-age adults in this country living with disabilities,” said Dr. Zachary Morris, Assistant Professor in the School of Social Welfare, the Stony Brook University.

People with disabilities encounter a wide range of out-of-pocket expenses. The largest extra costs are for personal assistance services and health care, where out-of-pocket costs for people with a disability are more than twice as high as those without a disability. People with disabilities also encounter a large range of extra expenses, such as the cost of ordering items for delivery when the in-person pick-up option is not accessible, building a wheelchair ramp, acquiring and maintaining service animals, buying a more expensive car in order to accommodate a wheelchair, purchasing food for special diets or paying more for housing in order to find a place that is accessible and convenient.

These expenses can weigh heavily on household finances and increase the risk of poverty; adults with disabilities experience greater difficulty meeting monthly expenses, saving for the future and making ends meet.

Under the direction of Dr. Morris, the Stony Brook University was awarded a grant from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation to research the economic disadvantages experienced by people with disabilities.

The project is a collaborative effort with Stephen McGarity, PhD, Assistant Professor at the University of Tennessee College of Social Work; Nanette Goodman, MS, Research Advisor at National Disability Institute; and Asghar Zaidi, PhD, Vice Chancellor of Government College Lahore and Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing.

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