Defining “Disability Belt”

A disability belt is the geographic distribution of people on disability in rural areas in Appalachia, the Deep South, and along the Arkansas-Missouri border. The disability belt in the United States encompasses much of the Appalachian region. The map below points to counties with the highest percentage of resident’s receiving disability benefits. Many of these counties are in Appalachia, such as Dickinson County, Virginia, where 20.2% of its residents are on disability – the highest rate in the United States.

Source: Bloomberg

According to the Appalachian Regional Commission, the percentage of people receiving disability benefits is higher in the Appalachian Region (7.3 percent) than in the United States as a whole (5.1 percent). They also found that all five Appalachian subregions report higher percentages of their populations receiving disability benefits than the nation as a whole, with Central Appalachia having a particularly high figure of 13.9 percent. Additionally, 13.6 percent of residents in distressed counties receive disability benefits, compared to 6.9 percent living non-distressed counties.

Source: Appalachian Regional Commission