Charts of the Week: Americans with disabilities in education and the workforce

Chart: Chronic Absenteeism

On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law, thereby prohibiting discrimination based on disability in employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications, and access to state and local government services. As Titles I and II of the ADA protect the rights those seeking employment and access to public education, this week’s Charts of the Week brings you a sample of Brookings research on education and workforce participation among Americans with disabilities.

Variation in employment by race, ethnicity, and place


Martha Ross and Nicole Bateman found that employment among prime-aged adults with disabilities varies by race and ethnicity, as demonstrated by the national rates. However, the national rates only tell part of the story. “Those rates vary widely by geography within each racial/ethnic category,” the authors wrote. “Among adults with disabilities, Hispanics exhibit the widest range of employment outcomes, with only 17 percent employed in Jacksonville, Fla. compared to 75 percent in Tulsa, Okla.”

Higher educational attainment boosts employment rates


Similar to trends in the broader labor market, adults with disabilities have higher employment rates if they obtain higher levels of education. However, Ross and Bateman observed, large gaps still exist between adults with disabilities and the adult population at-large. “Adults with a disability and a college degree have an employment rate (59 percent) that is 10 percentage points lower than all adults with a high school diploma or less (69 percent) and 27 percentage points lower than all adults with a college degree (86 percent),” they noted. Geography also influences this employment rates. “Across the 100 largest metropolitan areas, employment among people with disabilities and a high school diploma or less ranges from 17 percent in Bakersfield, Calif. to 59 percent in Madison, Wis.”

Chronic absenteeism among students with disabilities

CCF_20170727_Jacob_Evidence_Speaks_1(N.b., LEP are English language learners; IDEA are students with disabilities)

In the 2013-14 school year, 14 percent of students nationwide were chronically absentmissing 10 percent or more of school days. In their report, Brian A. Jacob and Kelly Lovett found that chronic absenteeism varies among student demographics, as students with disabilities (IDEA) are 1.5 times more likely to be chronically absent. An intervention program, Check & Connect, “showed some promise … for students with disabilities,” the authors explained. “The program involved monitoring student attendance, suspensions, course grades, and credits to provide individualized attention to at-risk students, and basic interventions include conversations between a monitor and the student about topics such as progress in school and how to resolve conflicts and cope with challenges.”

Betsy Broaddus contributed significantly to this post.