- Of the 10 largest cities in the U.S., Philadelphia has the highest percentage of residents with physical, emotional or cognitive disabilities, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts.
- Pew highlighted the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, from 2016, which showed 16% of Philadelphia's population had a disability, ahead of the national average of 12.5%. San Antonio, TX came in second with 14.1% and Chicago came in third with 10.6%.
- The data also indicated a correlation between high poverty rates and higher rates of disabilities.
The census data distinguishes between cognitive and ambulatory disabilities. Ambulatory equates to mobility, such as having difficulty walking up stairs, while cognitive disabilities represent a physical, mental or emotional problem that causes a person to have difficulty remembering, concentrating or making decisions. Both types of disabilities increase with age.
The Pew analysis highlights that disabilities are more prevalent in people living below the poverty line. When considering the 10 poorest U.S. cities with populations of at least 350,000, Detroit and Cleveland were tied for the highest population with disabilities at 20%, while Philadelphia came in third with 16%. But when looking just at a city's poor population with disabilities, Cleveland had the highest rate at nearly 24%, and Philadelphia was second with 22%.
The analysis did not offer possible reasons for the correlation between disabilities and income, but a number of factors may contribute. Living in poverty can increase the mental and physical toll on a person, contributing to declining health. Plus, people who live in poverty tend not to have the same access to health care to ease mental and physical burdens, which may exacerbate disabilities over time.
The data showed that having a population with high rates of disabilities has a cost to the city in the form of assistive programs. Many of the people in Philadelphia who have disabilities receive support from the city, with some programs receiving federal and state government funds. Last year Mayor Jim Kenney established the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities to ensure that entities throughout the city adhere to the Americans With Disabilities Act. The city also has a two-year waiting list for its Adaptive Modifications Program, which provides housing modifications for people with permanent ambulatory disabilities who meet income thresholds. Residents with cognitive disabilities can receive various forms of support including nursing care and employment assistance.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the subset of cities being analyzed in the data.