Immigrants from low-income countries are more likely than ethnic Norwegians to receive disability pensions. In a previous study in Oslo, we showed that occupational position probably accounted for all of this difference. The present article presents a study of the total population, with data on education and age at receipt of pension. Census and social security data for all persons living in Norway from 1992 to 2003 were used to identify new disability pensions to those aged 30-55 years and eligible in 1992, comprising 15.9% females and 11.4% males. Age-adjusted relative risk was 2.03 (95% CI 1.97-2.08) for non-Western males and 1.30 (1.26-1.36) for non-Western females compared with Westerners, and more than three times higher for males from North Africa/the Middle East. Education did not explain any of the risk differences, but when adjusting for age at pension receipt the differences disappeared completely. This is probably due to their being in predominantly unskilled occupations where there is also a low pension age among ethnic Norwegians.