Got a disability? You'll see the difference in your paycheck


A lot of people might assume that if you have a disability, you might not make as much money as someone without a disability. But how much less? How hard is it for people with disabilities in Illinois to get by compared to their neighbors?

Well, it depends on where you work. That’s what The Chicago Reporter found out when we took a look at the latest release of data from the U.S. Census Bureau. In some areas of Illinois, people without a disability make more than 200 percent as much as disabled workers in the same area.

Of the top five areas in Illinois where people with disabilities make substantially less than people without, three of those areas are in Chicago.

If you had to guess which neighborhoods they were, what would you say?

If you said the Loop, you’re right. The Loop and its surrounding areas are at the top of the list–which probably has something to do with the high salaries that people draw there. The Loop has the highest average income in the entire state–$103,577–and remember that’s just the average. But as high as those salaries go, people with disabilities working in the Loop aren’t sharing in those record salaries. In fact, on average, they make only $36,643, which is lower than the citywide average.

The next one was a surprise to me–where I live–Lincoln Square, North Center and West Ridge. Up here, people without disabilities make 128 percent more than disabled people. Here, the average income isn’t as sky high, but the average salary for disabled people is way lower–$27,704. In fact, when you look at the entire state, my section of the city has one of the lowest average wages for people with disabilities. Sad.

Number three? The Far Northwest side–Edison Park, Norwood Park, Jefferson Park, Dunning and O’Hare. The fact that this one included O’Hare surprised me, with the number of jobs that exist at the airport alone. But apparently, those jobs don’t pay well if you have a disability. There, the average income for people without a disability is $46,625, but if you’re disabled, you’re only averaging $21,428–the second lowest in the state.

It’s not like that everywhere. In fact, on the Far North Side–Rogers Park, Edgewater and Uptown–there’s essentially no difference. None.

When you look at the entire city, people without disabilities make 42 percent more than disabled people. No matter where you live or where you work, if you have a disability, that’s a tough reality to face.

Jeff Kelly Lowenstein contributed to this report.

Photo credit: Tim and Selena Middleton

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  • Hi Megan - can you please tell me how you were able to retrieve the data in this article and your two others related to disabilities and employment? I am trying to figure it out using the American Community Survey but am having trouble reproducing the same sets you've referenced. Thanks so much!

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