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Children on Disability has grown to 1.3 million as of 2011... | This American Life

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Fascinating story about the whole communities on "disability". Nobody is doing anything about it.

Chana Joffe-Walt continues her story about the phenomenal rise in disability payments over the last 30 years, since President Bill Clinton signed legislation pledging to "end welfare as we know it." Turns out, two private sector groups have really contributed to the growing disability roles. One is a group of people you'd probably expect, the other is a shock. And Chana looks at one of the fastest growing populations on disability: kids. (26 minutes)

The full NPR story is worth reading:

Every month, 14 million people get a disability check from the American government.

That chart of Children on Disability is a heartbreaker:

When you are an adult applying for disability you have to prove you cannot function in a "work-like setting." When you are a kid, a disability can be anything that prevents you from progressing in school. Two-thirds of all kids on the program today have been diagnosed with mental or intellectual problems.

Jahleel is a kid you can imagine doing very well for himself. He is delayed. But given the right circumstances and support, it's easy to believe that over the course of his schooling Jahleel could catch up.

Let's imagine that happens. Jahleel starts doing better in school, overcomes some of his disabilities. He doesn't need the disability program anymore. That would seem to be great for everyone, except for one thing: It would threaten his family's livelihood. Jahleel's family primarily survives off the monthly $700 check they get for his disability.[5]

Jahleel's mom wants him to do well in school. That is absolutely clear. But her livelihood depends on Jahleel struggling in school. This tension only increases as kids get older. One mother told me her teenage son wanted to work, but she didn't want him to get a job because if he did, the family would lose its disability check.

I haven't taken a survey or anything, but I'm guessing a large majority of Americans would be in favor of some form of government support for disabled children living in poverty. We would have a hard time agreeing on exactly how we want to offer support, but I think there are some basic things we'd all agree on.

Kids should be encouraged to go to school. Kids should want to do well in school. Parents should want their kids to do well in school. Kids should be confident their parents can provide for them regardless of how they do in school. Kids should become more and more independent as they grow older and hopefully be able to support themselves at around age 18.

The disability program stands in opposition to every one of these aims.

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