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Unemployment and poverty remain dramatically high among workers with disabilities, Cornell study shows

There is a dramatic employment and poverty gap between working-age people with disabilities and those without disabilities, according to a new Cornell report.

The Third Annual Disability Status Report, the only report of its kind in the nation, reveals that almost 38 percent of people with disabilities are employed, compared with almost 80 percent of people without disabilities. There are 22.3 million people with disabilities of working age (21-64), which is 13 percent of the total working-age population.

The researchers also found that Americans with disabilities are more than twice as likely to live in poverty -- 25.4 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities live in poverty compared with 9.5 percent of those without disabilities. People with disabilities constitute 28 percent of the working-age American population living in poverty.

The Disability Status Report was presented Nov. 7 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., by Cornell researchers in collaboration with the American Association of People with Disabilities.

"The employment gap for people with disabilities is long-standing," said Andrew Houtenville, director of Cornell's Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Demographics and Statistics (StatsRRTC). "They are not participating in the recovery from the 2001 recession."

The StatsRRTC, funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, is part of the Employment and Disability Institute in Cornell's ILR School and the Department of Policy Analysis and Management in Cornell's College of Human Ecology.

The reports, issued annually in the fall by Cornell, "fill a pressing need for timely and relevant statistics about people with disabilities," added Houtenville. "We hope they will become an annual event that policy-makers, advocates, the media and people with disabilities across the United States will anticipate and depend on."

The report, which contains a range of statistics about people with disabilities, including statistics by state, is available at

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Joe Schwartz