Map of the Day: Virginia’s Disabled Populations

In Lee County, Virginia’s westernmost jurisdiction, more than one quarter of the population (25.7%) has a disability, according to American Community Survey data. The rate of disabilities — physical or mental impairments that limit a person’s ability to work — is almost as high in neighboring counties, as shown in this map produced by the Virginia Public Access Project. Virginia’s most economically depressed jurisdictions tend to have the highest disability rates. Economy and disability… which is the chicken and which is the egg?

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13 responses to “Map of the Day: Virginia’s Disabled Populations

  1. Oh, yeah. That’s exactly where we need to place a casino.

    • Ha ha! I’ve been asking myself some of the same questions for a variety of reasons. Why Bristol? Why not Richmond or Virginia Beach or Williamsburg? Somewhere where there is tourist traffic. NoVa would be fine but as Sarah Palin might have said, “I can see Maryland’s MGM Grand from my home in NoVa.”

      Didn’t anybody learn from Atlantic City?

      https://www.usnews.com/opinion/economic-intelligence/articles/2016-04-21/atlantic-city-crisis-shows-casino-gambling-is-a-bad-bet

      It’s 325 miles from Richmond to Bristol. It’s 128 miles from New York City to Atlantic City. Where are these gamblers at the Bristol Casino going to come from?

      In fairness, there are two new casinos opening in Atlantic City so there’s a flicker of hope for some redemption but gambling didn’t save AC.

      My understanding is that the proposed Bristol Casino is based on private funding so the investors can place a field bet on Bristol if they want. I just wonder what they are thinking.

  2. 25.7% of the population … not 25.7% of the adult population? That is staggering.

    • I was wondering the same thing. VPAP’s graphic says “percentage of the population,” but I wonder if the researcher missed the distinction between “population” and “working age population.”

    • 25.7% makes some sense if you look at the age distribution of Lee County and much of southern and western Virginia. In Virginia overall, more than a third of the 65+ population has a disability and close to half of the 75+ population has a disability.

      Outside Virginia’s metro areas, the 65+ population typically makes up a much larger share of the population. In a number of counties over half the adult population is retired. If you look at the disability map it looks a lot like an age distribution map.

      Frank Kilgore’s points are also certainly a factor in counties like Lee.

  3. Wonder if they can work if the casino comes in?

  4. Posted on behalf of Frank Kilgore:

    I have the answer for your very timely article. Poverty comes first then the high rate of disability claims follow. It’s all about demographics.

    When low to middle income jobs disappear young to middle aged adults have to leave a locality to find work. They are also the healthiest population of residents. So left behind is a disproportionate percentage of older folks, like me, who are fighting Nature everyday to stay upright. Nature always prevails because she has infinity on her side.

    Plus, rural areas have more jobs proportionately that require heavy manual labor such as mining, farming, logging, and manufacturing. This factor greatly increases trauma to joints and backs which in turn usually results in early onset of chronic arthritis and muscle atrophy.

    Added together, the depopulation of the healthy strata of younger people, the resulting statistical increase of older folks and the high impact physical jobs that cause chronic pain and disability (that unfortunately increases the odds of pain drug dependency) then you have these rural statistical anomalies.

    So, the best solution for that anomaly in far SW Va is the 5,000 jobs the proposed Bristol casino/resort will offer. Jobs with low physical impact, night shifts for people who stay up all night because they can’t sleep due to chronic pain, and the reduction of depression, both financial and mental, due to the increase in jobs and hope will cure a lot of these numbers.

    • Mr. Kilgore:

      Good luck to you sir. It sounds like you are in a tough spot but with some hope for the future. The trouble with a casino in Bristol is that there is not enough disposable income in the surrounding areas to fund the inevitable losses associated with casino gambling. The answer to that challenge is to convince people from elsewhere to travel to Bristol to gamble. In other words, there are two approaches to successful casino placement:

      1. Put the casino where there is a large concentration of wealthy and relatively wealthy people. This is the concept behind the MGM Grand at National Harbor – in Maryland, just south of DC and east of NoVa.

      2. Create a destination where people will travel to see the sights, take in the shows, attend conferences and … most of all … gamble in the casinos. This has long been the Las Vegas approach.

      Once upon a time legalized gambling was so rare in America that eager bettors would make long trips to almost anywhere they could bet. Those times are gone. Why would anybody in Richmond or Northern Virginia travel to Bristol to gamble when National Harbor is much, much closer?

      I don’t get the business model.

  5. another aspect is that folks who get social security disability also get Medicare and SSI will pay the Medicare premiums

    There are far more people trying to sign up for SSD than the original actuarials predicted and for that reason – SSD has exhausted it’s trust fund and now pays out no more than what the FICA tax portion for SSD generates.

    The problems alluded to for SW Va extend to other southern states:

    • First, there are plenty of legitimately disabled people who get the disability benefits they deserve. And demographics certainly play a role. However, neither full explains the rapid growth of social security disability benefits overall.

      Social Security Disability has become the long term welfare for rural poverty. Large cities generally have the tax base and the means to create urban poverty fighting programs. There is also usually available employment. Rural counties have no such tax base and the jobs have been leaving faster that the the counties have been de-populating. TANF runs out. Now what? Move or find a doctor with a sympathetic ear. Rural areas have generally low costs of living and that disability benefit goes a lot further than it would in Arlington.

  6. Demographics are part of the answer, but LarrytheG’s explanation helps account for the geometric increase in social security recipients nationally, as well as where those recipients live.

    Here’s a chart of the growth in recipients. If I knew how to paste directly, I would.
    https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/di_asr/2016/charts-text.html#chart2

  7. I am under the impression that the two county’s comprising Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Accomack and Northampton Counties, are among the very poorest rural counties in Virginia. Life there is surely hard, whether for a farmer, or waterman, or whatever. Yet notice the disparities in disabilities there in comparison to certain other counties just across the Chesapeake Bay, as well as within south western Virginia, as elsewhere. For % comparison see:

    https://www.vpap.org/visuals/visual/disabledpopulation_2017/

    Why the large difference?

    Perhaps, to a degree, the availability of work opportunities, however hard, makes a big difference, and keeps families together, irrespective of income. With families, there is always hope, and help, as Mr. Kilgore suggests. Very complicated topic.

  8. The following is taken from The White Ghetto by Kevin D. Williamson, published Jan. 9, 2014 in National Review. Jim Bacon, pay particular attention to the last paragraph regarding learning disabilities.

    …“Well, you try paying that much for a case of pop,” says the irritated proprietor of a nearby café, who is curt with whoever is on the other end of the telephone but greets customers with the perfect manners that small-town restaurateurs reliably develop. I don’t think much of that overheard remark at the time, but it turns out that the local economy runs on black-market soda the way Baghdad ran on contraband crude during the days of sanctions.

    It works like this: Once a month, the debit-card accounts of those receiving what we still call food stamps are credited with a few hundred dollars — about $500 for a family of four, on average — which are immediately converted into a unit of exchange, in this case cases of soda. On the day when accounts are credited, local establishments accepting EBT cards — and all across the Big White Ghetto, “We Accept Food Stamps” is the new E pluribus unum – are swamped with locals using their public benefits to buy cases and cases — reports put the number at 30 to 40 cases for some buyers — of soda. Those cases of soda then either go on to another retailer, who buys them at 50 cents on the dollar, in effect laundering those $500 in monthly benefits into $250 in cash — a considerably worse rate than your typical organized-crime money launderer offers — or else they go into the local black-market economy, where they can be used as currency in such ventures as the dealing of unauthorized prescription painkillers — by “pillbillies,” as they are known at the sympathetic establishments in Florida that do so much business with Kentucky and West Virginia that the relevant interstate bus service is nicknamed the “OxyContin Express.” A woman who is intimately familiar with the local drug economy suggests that the exchange rate between sexual favors and cases of pop — some dealers will accept either — is about 1:1, meaning that the value of a woman in the local prescription-drug economy is about $12.99 at Walmart prices.

    There’s a great deal of drug use, welfare fraud, and the like, but the overall crime rate throughout Appalachia is about two-thirds the national average, and the rate of violent crime is half the national average, according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service. Chief Logsdon is justifiably skeptical of the area’s reputation for drug-fueled crime. But he is not blinkered, and his photos of spectacular autumn foliage and delicate baby birds do not denote a sentimental disposition. “We have loggers and coal producers,” he says, dropping the cornpone accent. “We have educators and local businesses, and people in the arts. And we have the same problems they have in every community.” He points out that the town recently opened up a $1 million public library — a substantial investment for a town in which the value of all residential property combined would not add up to the big lottery jackpot being advertised all over. (Lottery tickets, particularly the scratch-off variety, are ubiquitous here.) He does not deny the severity or scope of the region’s problems, but he does think that they are exaggerated by visitors who are here, after all, only because Owsley holds the national title for poorest county.

    Owsley’s dependent underclass has many of the same problems as any other dependent underclass; but with a poverty rate persistently at the 40 percent mark — or half again as much poverty as in the Bronx — the underclass plays an outsized role in local life. It is not the exception.

    Two towns over, I ask a young woman about the local gossip, and she tells me it’s always the same: “Who’s growing weed, who’s not growing weed anymore, who’s cooking meth, whose meth lab got broken into, whose meth lab blew up.” Chief Logsdon thinks I may be talking to the wrong people. “Maybe that’s all they see, because that’s all they know. Ask somebody else and they’ll tell you a different story.” He then gives me a half-joking — but only half — list of people not to talk to: Not the shiftless fellows milling about in the hallways on various government-related errands, not the guy circling the block on a moped. Instead, there’s the lifelong banker whose brother is the head of the school board. There’s the mayor, a sharp nonagenarian who has been in office since the Eisenhower administration.

    And that, too, is part of the problem with adverse selection in the Big White Ghetto: For the smart and enterprising people left behind, life can be very comfortable, with family close, a low cost of living, beautiful scenery, and a very short climb to the top of the social pecking order. The relative ease of life for the well-off and connected here makes it easy to overlook the real unpleasant facts of economic life, which helps explain why Booneville has a lovely new golf course, of all things, but so little in the way of everyday necessities …

    This is about “the Draw.” “The draw,” the monthly welfare checks that supplement dependents’ earnings in the black-market Pepsi economy, is poison. It’s a potent enough poison to catch the attention even of such people as those who write for the New York Times. Nicholas Kristof, visiting nearby Jackson, Ky., last year, was shocked by parents who were taking their children out of literacy classes because the possibility of improved academic performance would threaten $700-a-month Social Security disability benefits, which increasingly are paid out for nebulous afflictions such as loosely defined learning disorders. “This is painful for a liberal to admit,” Kristof wrote, “but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency.”

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