This weekend Nick Kristof wrote a column called “Profiting from a Child’s Illiteracy” in which he suggested — without evidence — that a significant portion of American children who are receiving Social Security disability are doing so because their parents find it “easier” to collect government checks than to find and keep gainful employment. Describing their disabilities as “fuzzier” and “less clear-cut” than those of past generations, Kristof claimed that it is SSI, and the “huge stake in their failing” that it gives their parents, which “condemn[s]” them “to a life of poverty on the dole.”

Thirteen facts on those children, courtesy of the Social Security Administration:

  • Fewer than thirty percent live with both parents.
  • Half live in a household with at least one other person with a disability.
  • Almost seventy percent saw a doctor three or more times in the last year.
  • Nearly half visited an emergency room at least once in the last year.
  • More than half have a disability described as “severe.”
  • Forty-three percent have a physical disability.
  • Eight percent are described as mentally retarded.
  • Seventeen percent have had surgery in the last year.
  • Among teenagers, nineteen percent are unable to bathe themselves.
  • Thirty-six percent of those requiring mental health care are not receiving it.
  • Seventy-four percent of guardians reporting a need for respite care are not receiving it.
  • A quarter of those needing disability-specific transportation assistance are not receiving it.
  • Their average total family income from all sources is $1,818 a month.

Update | Here are some more welcome facts on SSI, and on Kristof’s wrongheaded attacks on the program.