14 million invisible Americans.

14 million invisible Americans.

Chana Joffe-Walt,* a reporter for the National Public Radio (NPR) program Planet Money, recently did a fantastic job of investigating one of the most under-appreciated stories of the economic recovery.

This story – Americans on disability – ended up being different than I expected, and it is all the more compelling because of that. Joffe-Walt reported that in the past 3 decades, the number of Americans who are on disability has skyrocketed. They are the 14 million Americans who don’t have jobs, who don’t have the skills, education, or physical ability to do the jobs that are available, and who don’t show up in any of the unemployment measures we use – 14 million Americans who are both invisible to the American economy and also essential to understanding it.

To hear and read the whole story, click on the following links:

  1. Planet Money, Episode 446: The Invisible 14 Million
  2. This American Life, Episode 490: Trends With Benefits
  3. All Things Considered, March 22, 2013: Millions Of Americans Don’t Work Due To Disability, And The Number Is Growing
  4. Planet Money, Online Story, 2013. Unfit for Work: The startling rise of disability in America

Of course, there have been comments in the blogosphere about the piece. Here are two examples:

If that knocked your socks off, take a look at our next cool topic, How a tax begat bebop. And if you want to peruse all of the previous sock-knocking blog entries, visit the Knocked My Socks Off archive (links to another blog site).


* Chana Joffe-Walt has been a reporter for Planet Money on NPR since 2009. Previously, she was a reporter for the public radio station KPLU in Seattle. Her favorite part of working with Planet Money is those nagging economic questions. What are the economic incentives for pirates? What is the business model of recycling? What does an FDIC takeover actually look like? How do our tiny, day-to-day purchasing decisions affect the global economy?