Jobs

Episode 446: The Invisible 14 Million

Listen

13 min 38 sec
 
Annual Disability Awards For Former Workers, By Diagnosis (1967-2011)

We're an economics show. We cover the economy. But it's come to our attention that, until now, we've missed one of the biggest stories in our economy: The startling rise in the number of people on federal disability programs.

It's the story of 14 million people who don't show up in most of the numbers we look at to understand the economy. These 14 million Americans don't have jobs, but they don't show up in any of the unemployment measures that we use. They receive federal assistance, but are often overlooked in discussions of the social safety net.

On today's show: What disability in America says about the state of the American workforce, and about what it means to be poor in America nearly 20 years after we ended welfare as we knew it.

For much, much more on disability, see our giant online story and listen to This American Life this weekend (we're doing the whole hour on disability). And we'll have more disability stories next week on All Things Considered.

Correction: An earlier version of this episode incorrectly named the Minnesota congressman who at first voted against the legislation that expanded the definition of disability. His name is Tim Penny and not Tim Perry.

Music: Alison Moyet's "Invisible" Find us: Twitter/ Facebook/ Spotify/ Tumblr. Download the Planet Money iPhone App.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.