After a half of year of investigation, Planet Money’s Chana Joffe-Walt reports a disturbing trend in the American economy-the constantly increasing number of of Americans receiving federal disability payments. The number Americans on disability has doubled in the last fifteen years. Currently, there are fourteen million people receiving disability payments, nearly a quarter of all adults in some towns and counties. The Planet Money team argues that the disability system has become a de facto welfare system and an economically inefficient one at that. The causes of this startling trend include the changing economy, lawyers, and, surprisingly, kids.
The results of Joffe-Walt’s findings will be on NPR all week this week. The full story was the focus of This American Life (59:17 minutes). A preview of the story is available on the Planet Money Podcast (13:38 minutes). The Planet Money website includes some fairly startling graphs about the problem. Finally, parts of the story will also be featured on All Things Considered.