I'm not sure exactly what The Center for Michigan is but they have posted a long piece about the high rate of disability in poor regions of the state. You wonder if they, unlike the Washington Post, have their numbers right.
As I've said before, the high rate of disability in poor rural areas is nothing new. It's been a prominent fact for me since I started in the private practice of law in 1979. It's where my clients are clustered. As I've also posted, I see nothing surprising in this. Younger, healthier, smarter, better educated individuals leave poor rural areas to find jobs in urban areas. The population left behind is on average older, sicker, less smart and less well educated. These are all factors that lead to higher rates of disability. People who live in poor rural areas have poor access to health care. Poor access to health care also predisposes to disability.
The subtext of pieces such as this is that these people aren't really disabled; they're just poor. And all these poor people who aren't sick getting on Social Security disability just shows how lax the standards are. The solution, of course, is to tighten up on disability and enact policies which "grow" the economy. Of course, the best way to "grow" the economy is to cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans. I think virtually everyone actually involved in the Social Security disability process knows it's quite difficult to get on Social Security but that's not what people are hearing.
By the way, pieces like this don't simply arise out of a reporter's curiosity. Whenever you see David Autor quoted, you can bet that a Washington think tank supported by Koch brothers money planted the piece. All these pieces seem like they come out of a cookie cutter which is why I sort of expect that the stats quoted might be wrong.