New report reveals that federal poverty data significantly undercounts how many people with disabilities are struggling to afford the basics.
HATTIESBURG, MISS. – The number of people with disabilities in Mississippi who struggle to afford the basics is far higher than federal poverty data indicates, according to a new report from United Way of Southeast Mississippi and its research partner United For ALICE.
In 2019, while 23% of residents with disabilities were deemed in poverty, 35% were ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). ALICE households earn more than the Federal Poverty Level but less than what it costs to live and work in the modern economy. Combined, 58% of Mississippi residents living with disabilities were below the ALICE Threshold, with income that doesn’t meet the basic costs of housing, child care, health care, transportation and a smartphone plan.
Furthermore, 58% of residents with disabilities in United Way of Southeast Mississippi’s service area — encompassing Forrest, Lamar, Marion and Perry counties — were also living below the ALICE Threshold.
“As we have just observed the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we see that residents with physical, mental or emotional conditions who are struggling financially are not only being undercounted but underserved,” said United For ALICE National Director Stephanie Hoopes, Ph.D. “There is still work to do as having a disability puts individuals at substantial risk for financial instability, more than many other factors. Daily, and even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic, these individuals face barriers to accessing a quality education, secure jobs and critical supports.”
The ALICE in Focus: People With Disabilities report and interactive tools reveal that during the pandemic, people with disabilities below the ALICE Threshold in Mississippi were 40% more likely to be anxious than those without disabilities.
The new research also shows that outdated federal guidelines prevent the majority of residents with disabilities who are living in financial hardship from accessing critical public assistance. According to the new report, a staggering 83% of Mississippians with disabilities below the ALICE Threshold did not receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The program requires that recipients have income below the poverty level, be unable to work, have a “severe” impairment and have less than $2,000 in their bank accounts, $3,000 if they are a married couple.
“Income eligibility requirements for SSI haven’t been updated in nearly four decades, which is one of the big reasons why more than 231,311 residents were shut out of receiving a much-needed financial lifeline,” said United Way of Southeast Mississippi CEO Tracie Fowler. “By using data that takes into account the true cost of living — we can establish critical supports that help those who need it the most.”
Other findings from ALICE in Focus: People With Disabilities include:
- Black and Hispanic residents with disabilities — 71% and 60% respectively — disproportionately experienced financial hardship compared to 49% of white people with disabilities.
- Females with disabilities struggled more to afford the basics — 60% — compared to 55% of males with disabilities.
- Mississippi saw one-fourth of residents (25%) with disabilities below the ALICE Threshold spend 35% or more of their income on their mortgage, plus utilities, taxes and insurance; while nearly half (48%) below the Threshold were rent-burdened and paying more than 35% of income on rent.
- Whether working full or part time, people with disabilities were more likely to be living paycheck to paycheck than those without disabilities: 33% of full-time workers with disabilities were below the ALICE Threshold compared to 26% of full-time workers without disabilities.
Hoopes also pointed out that rates of hardship are likely even higher than could be counted as data is not available for individuals living in nursing homes, correctional facilities and other group settings.
More data is available through the ALICE in Focus: People With Disabilities interactive data dashboard, which provides filters for regional and local geographies, age, race, disability status, living arrangements and household work status. Visit UnitedForALICE.org/Focus-Disabilities.
ALICE in Focus: People With Disabilities marks the second installment in the ALICE in Focus Research Series, which draws from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) Public Use Microdata Samples (PUMS). Each installment in the series highlights a specific segment within the ALICE demographic. The first installment focused on children; the next report will feature veterans.