How to Get Disability Census Data

Yesterday, I got a custom data request for “disability census” data for a small county for a vehicle grant application. Since I do a little research to answer every custom data request, I thought I’d try turning my research into a short blog post to see if this information would help other folks searching for “disability census” data.

Is current disability census data available online?
Yes. You can get this data from the Census.gov using the American FactFinder tool. (Hint: Google “American Fact Finder 2” to get to the right page on the Census.gov website).

I want Census 2010 disability data. Why can’t I find it?
Disability data are NOT included in the Census 2010 (aka the decennial census). You’ll need to use a dataset called the American Community Survey (ACS). If you’re not familiar with the ACS, you should check out this blog post: American Community Survey vs. Decennial Census: What’s the Difference

So what ACS dataset should you use to pull disability data from? Well, that depends on the population of the area that you are interested in getting data about. If you need disability census data for a county with a big population (think top 100 most populated counties in the US), then you’ll probably be ok using the 2010 ACS 1-year estimates. If you are looking for disability data for a mid-sized county or a city/place, I’d recommend using the 2010 ACS 3 year estimates. If your county or city has a very small population, then the only dataset available to you might be the the 2010 ACS 5 year estimates.

What disability census data can I get from the American Community Survey?
For basic disability data, I like Table S1810 Disability Characteristics from either the 2010 ACS 1 year estimates or the 2010 ACS 3 year estimates. In this table, you can find:

  1. Percent of population by age with:
    • With a hearing difficulty
    • With a vision difficulty
    • With a cognitive difficulty
    • With an ambulatory difficulty
    • With a self-care difficulty
    • With an independent living difficulty
  2. Sex by disability status
  3. Race by disability status

Here is Table S1810 Disability Characteristics for Harris County, Texas as an example.

Census Disability Data for Harris County Texas Basic Census Disability Data for Harris County Texas

In addition to Table S1810 Disability Characteristics, there are a number of other ACS tables with disability data. Below are a few tables I thought looked the most helpful or interesting.

  • B18108 – AGE BY NUMBER OF DISABILITIES
  • B18120 – EMPLOYMENT STATUS BY DISABILITY STATUS AND TYPE
  • B18130 – AGE BY DISABILITY STATUS BY POVERTY STATUS
  • B18135 – AGE BY DISABILITY STATUS BY HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE STATUS
  • B21007 – AGE BY VETERAN STATUS BY POVERTY STATUS IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS BY DISABILITY STATUS FOR THE CIVILIAN POPULATION 18 YEARS AND OVER
  • B22010 – RECEIPT OF FOOD STAMPS/SNAP IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS BY DISABILITY STATUS FOR HOUSEHOLDS

If you found this blog post to be helpful or confusing, please leave me a comment.

Note: I’ve been told by hundreds of people that the American FactFinder 2 is a confusing tool to use. There are tutorials available from the Census.gov to help you learn how to use the American FactFinder 2. If you need disability census data now and you don’t want to learn the American FactFinder 2, then consider using the Cubit Custom Data option. I’ll pulled the most current disability data for a county or a city.

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5 Responses to How to Get Disability Census Data

  1. Robert Wardrup June 4, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    How about ZCTA-level disability percentages? I’ve searched the ACS data but I don’t think they have anything. :(

  2. Kristen Carney June 6, 2012 at 9:00 pm #

    For what Census geography levels do you need ZCTA-level disability percentages?

  3. Mike Cline August 20, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    Unfortunately, the Feds use disability data for certain grant applications but don’t take into account the availability of data. Having worked with this data I know that the problems with disability data are the following:

    Census 2000: After field tests of disability questions Census Bureau determined that they likely over estimated disabilities in 2000 Census. So, they changed the wording for the ACS. After additional field testing on ACS and problems with question order, they changed the ACS question 2x over the past decade which resulted in incompatible estimates over time. Therefore, you can’t compare ACS estimates to Census 2000 estimates and you can’t compare newer ACS estimates to pre-2008 estimates. AND that also means that disability estimates are NOT available for small areas (i.e. the 5-year data file). 5-year estimates will not be available until the 2008-2012 data are available.

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