Study: 34% of Working-Age Adults with Intellectual Disabilities Employed; More than Half Not Employed and Not Looking
Despite the education, training, and employment goals of the decade-old Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement acts, the vast majority of adults with intellectual disabilities are not finding jobs.
According to a University of Massachusetts Boston survey published in the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, only 34 percent of intellectually disabled adults are employed. Compare that to the 76 percent of adults without disabilities that the Department of Labor says are employed. Even more telling, 56 percent of those in the survey sample were not working and not seeking employment. About 28 percent have never held a job.
“The needle hasn’t changed,” says Gary Siperstein, one of the co-authors of the study and the director of UMass Boston’s Center for Social Development and Education. “In 1966, when I entered the field of vocational rehabilitation, the emphasis was on how schools can prepare people for the world of work. Have we moved too far away from that?”
Those in the study who were employed tended to be in service or laborer type jobs, fields where low-skill workers are often employed. Over the past 30 years, low-skill jobs have made up an ever-shrinking proportion of the nation’s economy. Siperstein and his coauthors are concerned that the percentage of employed adults with intellectual disabilities will continue to drop if the number of available low-skill jobs continues to shrink.
“We’ve lost sight of the fact that there are critical groups of people who don't have the opportunity to enter the labor force or don't have the support to stay in the labor force. When we talk about work in the United States, we have to be talking about preparing everyone--those who are at risk of not graduating from high school, those who have lost their jobs, who have been working, and those with disabilities who begin without a head start,” Siperstein says.
Siperstein, who is also a professor in the Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs in the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, says the study provides one of the first ever national snapshots of adults with intellectual disabilities. Out of the approximately 341,000 households that Gallup screened over a 16-month period, parents of one thousand adults with intellectual disabilities between the ages of 21-65 in all 50 states were included in the sample.
The Special Olympics sponsored the research. Siperstein says additional results will be released in the coming months.
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