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ILR researchers demystify disability stats

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Lindsey Hadlock

Researchers at the K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability released the Disability Statistics Status Report Jan. 30, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey.

The report showed 319 million noninstitutionalized people in the U.S. population, 41 million of whom are people with disabilities.

“Ambulatory disability is the most common, followed by independent living and cognitive disability,” said research specialist Bill Erickson. “One of the things closely linked to disability prevalence is age; prevalence significantly increases by age.”

Sarah von Schrader, associate director of research at the Yang-Tan Institute, said: “Documenting current statistics can be challenging. These status reports, our webinars and website were designed to interpret information, to improve the understanding of current situations for individuals with disabilities and to support effective planning.”

Von Schrader said the employment rate for ages 21 to 64 in 2016 was 36.2 percent employment for people with disabilities, compared with 78.9 for those without disabilities.

Looking at data from 2008 to 2016, “As we hit the recession, the employment rate went down, but we are on our way back close to 2008 levels,” von Schrader said. “However, during this time period we have seen a consistent employment rate gap of 40 to 42 percentage points between people with and without disabilities.”

Along with lower employment rates, people with disabilities experience greater rates of poverty, “about two and a half times greater for people with disabilities as compared to those without disabilities,” von Schrader said.

Erickson and von Schrader believe it’s important to present disability statistics that are relevant and accessible to the wide range of potential users, including policymakers and practitioners. The Yang Tan Institute’s website features data for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

The annual report has been cited by National Public Radio, the American Foundation for the Blind, the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions and other groups.

David Ticzon '18 is a communications intern at the ILR School.

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