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  Chapter Eight:

  Health of Children
  Health of Adults
  STDs and AIDS
  Illegal Drugs
  Accidental Deaths
  Hospital Patients
  Health Care Costs
  Mental Patients
  Disabled Persons



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Disabled Persons

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Fewer blind people received public assistance at the end of the century than in 1950. At the same time, the number of public assistance recipients with other types of disabilities increased fortyfold.
The upper chart indicates that the incidence of blindness in the American population declined during the second half of the century. There were 64 blind people receiving public assistance per 100,000 population in 1950 and only 30 per 100,000 population in 1997. These public assistance recipients, moreover, constituted a large share of all blind people. 

This striking improvement was largely attributable to a decrease in industrial accidents, enormous progress in cataract surgery and the repair of detached retinas, and advances in controlling glaucoma and other diseases of the eye. 

But the lower chart seems to indicate that the incidence of total disability from other causes increased substantially during the same period. The number of people with disabilities that received public assistance rose from 46 per 100,000 population in 1950 to 1,886 per 100,000 population in 1997. This increase is puzzling because it occurred at a time of declining industrial (and household) accident rates and impressive progress in the medical treatment of genetic anomalies, traumas, and mental disorders. 

The most likely explanation appears to be that the criteria for classifying public assistance applicants as disabled were progressively liberalized, while the criteria for classifying applicants as blind remained essentially unchanged. (See page 196 for a discussion of government payments to individuals.)

Chapter 8 chart 12

Source Notes
Source Abbreviations

HS series H 356 and H 357; SA 1922, table 43; SA 1974, table 471; SA 1977, table 543; SA 1979, table 566; SA 1987, table 619; SA 1989, table 604; SA 1991, table 612; SA 1993, table 604; SA 1998, table 625; and SA 1999, table 631.


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