Research Snapshot: Expanding the Availability and Quality of Rural Data

January 16, 2020


In order to create policies and programs that serve the needs of people with disabilities in rural communities, it is important to know things about them, such as demographic information and location. The federal government maintains several large data sets that collect this information. However, it can be difficult to access rural disability data from these data sets (see Data Limitations in the American Community Survey: The Impact on Rural Disability Research).

To address this, RTC:Rural is conducting rural analyses of existing large data sets to contribute to a national disability statistics resource.

Lillie Greiman, RTC:Rural Project Director, explains the project and its goals, and gives a quick progress update.

What will you be doing for the Expanding the Availability and Quality of Rural Data project?

Lillie Greiman (LG): R1: Expanding the Availability and Quality of Rural Data involves collaboration with the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics (StatsRRTC) to develop a rural addendum to their annual Disabilities Statistics Compendium. The Disability Statistics Compendium is a national resource providing disability data and statistics across multiple national datasets. The compendium is a resource for researchers, advocates and policy makers to make informed decisions about their work.

Why is RTC:Rural doing this research?

LG: Until this year there was little to no rural data included in the compendium. We have developed a rural addendum to include in the compendium to improve access to accurate and current data about the disability experience in rural communities.

What work have you done so far?

LG: So far we have compiled rural data from the American Community Survey (ACS) 2013-2017 5 year estimates, and produced rural disability data tables. We included demographic variables like age, sex, race as well as economic indicators like median income, poverty and employment as well as a disability map that shows variations across place.  

We also developed two fact sheets which describe rural trends in employment (Employment disparity grows for rural Americans with disability) and insurance access (ACA and Medicaid expansion increases insurance coverage for rural Americans with disability). Work along these lines will continue and expand as additional ACS data becomes available.

Who are you working with?

LG: We are working closely with the StatsRRTC to include rural disability tables in the Annual Disability Compendium. We have been invited to conduct a panel on Disability Statistics in Rural Communities in conjunction with the StatsRRTC Compendium Release event and conference in Washington DC on February 11, 2020. We are looking forward connecting with researchers, advocates, and practitioners who live, work, and care about people with disabilities in rural America.


For more information about the upcoming Annual Disability Statistics Compendium and to register, visit the event website at

Registration is FREE. The Annual Disability Statistics Compendium offers both in-person and webcast participation options. Please register if you plan to attend in-person or via webcast. The agenda, presenters, and procedures for logging in to the webcast (for web viewers) will be emailed to you as they become available.