By Carli Friedman, CQL Director of Research
People with disabilities are poorer and less financially secure than nondisabled people, often having fewer assets, dealing with the extra costs associated with disability, and facing discrimination that contributes to financial hardship. While the disability community was especially hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, less is known about their financial experiences during the pandemic. For these reasons, the aim of this study was to examine the financial hardship – being able to pay expenses and bills – of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. To do so, we analyzed United States Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey data from 444,500 people between July 2021 and January 2022. We weighted this data to represent population demographics.
Between July 2021 and January 2022, 52.0% of adults with disabilities in the United States experienced financial hardship, having difficulty paying usual household expenses. In fact, people with disabilities were 3 times more likely to experience financial hardship than nondisabled people, even when all other sociodemographics and household job loss were controlled. People with disabilities who were younger, cisgender women, Black, from ‘another’ race or multiracial, and had a high school degree or less were especially vulnerable to financial hardship.
People with Disabilities: Difficulty Paying Usual Household Expenses
In addition to being more likely to experience financial hardship during the pandemic, compared to nondisabled people, people with disabilities were more likely to sell their assets or possessions, borrow from friends and family, and rely on credit cards or loans, thereby likely incurring new debt that will increase their financial hardship longer-term. People with disabilities were also more likely than nondisabled people to rely on stimulus and social programs, including the Child Tax Credit, economic impact payments, SNAP/EBT, and rental assistance, which suggests these programs may be especially beneficial to help people with disabilities navigate poverty and financial hardship.
People with Disabilities’ Sources of Income/Funds for Spending Needs
Financial hardship not only negatively impacts people with disabilities’ long-term financial well-being and vulnerability to economic changes, such as increased inflation, it also negatively impacts people’s physical and mental health, well-being, and quality of life. As people with disabilities have been advocating for, it’s time to demolish disabled poverty.