Rural areas depend more on Social Security Disability Income

The national debt is in the news a lot these days and a part of the conversation is how to lower federal spending by adjusting Social Security programs including Social Security Disability Income. Any changes in Social Security programs would disproportionately affect rural areas of Wisconsin because rural areas across the United States generally depend more on Social Security benefits than urban areas like Milwaukee.

Social Security payments include retirement benefits, disability benefits and survivor benefits. Metropolitan areas are less dependent on income from Social Security than rural areas because of the economic diversity in urban areas. In rural counties Social Security payments make up 9.3 percent of total personal income. The percentage is almost twice as much as in urban areas. In urban counties like Milwaukee County Social Security payments account for 5 percent of total personal income per month. On the national level, Social Security payments make up 5.5 percent of total personal income.

According to a geographer from Middlebury College, Social Security “is a very critical element of the local economic base” in rural areas. In places with a wide base of economic activity like in larger cities Social Security is less important to the local economy. If benefits are cut or eligibility standards are changed rural counties and small cities will be disproportionately affected.

Seniors in rural communities are also more likely to spend their money locally and many local businesses depend on their patronage. Social Security therefore not only helps individuals, it also indirectly helps businesses stay out of the red.

Source:, “Rural counties more dependent on Social Security,” Bill Bishop and Roberto Gallardo, Oct. 31, 2011


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