National Snapshot of Adults with Intellectual Disabilities in the Labor Force

A new survey shows that unemployment among people with intellectual disabilities is more than twice as high as for the general population. That’s according to one of the most comprehensive U.S. surveys ever done on adults with disabilities in the workforce. The “National Snapshot of Adults with Intellectual Disabilities in the Labor Force” was commissioned by Special Olympics, conducted by the Center for Social Development and Education at the University of Massachusetts Boston and administered by Gallup.

Study Findings

  • One of the most dramatic findings of this snapshot is that less than one out of every two working age adults with ID is in the labor force (i.e. currently employed or searching for work).

            - Only 44% of adults with ID aged 21-64 are in the labor force.

            - This is compared to 83% of working-age adults without disabilities who are in the labor force.

  • The unemployment rate for adults with ID is more than twice as high as those without disabilities.

            - 21% of working age adults with ID are unemployed.

            - This is compared to less than 8% of adults without disabilities who are unemployed.

  • A substantial proportion of adults with ID have never been in the workforce.

            - 28% of working age adults with ID have never held a job.

  • Only 34% of adults with ID aged 21-64 are employed, and an approximately equal number work in a sheltered setting as a competitive setting (where most people do not have disabilities

  • Regardless of the setting in which they work, almost all adults with ID are underemployed (are not full time and earn less than the minimum wage)

  • Despite the fact that most adults with ID are underemployed, many experience job stability.

            - 62% of adults with ID employed in a competitive setting have been at their current job for 3 years or             more.

            - 81% of adults with ID employed in a sheltered setting have been at their current job for 3 years or more.

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