About the Annual Youth Transition Report
The 2022 Youth Transition Report underscores the persistent and pernicious gap between youth and young adults with disabilities and those without disabilities on measures of success in education, employment, opportunity, and poverty. While data and reports exist for the working-age adult population and children with disabilities, IEL recognized a lack of information specific to the youth and young adult population in the 14-24 age group. IEL’s Youth Transition Report addresses this need by presenting an annual snapshot of the outcome gaps between youth and young adults with disabilities and those without disabilities, including opportunity youth whom the education and workforce systems have not adequately served and supported. This report consists of the status of the selected population and education, employment, opportunity youth, and poverty indicators.
Highlights from the 2022 Youth Transition Report
This report includes the analysis of key educational and employment indicators for youth and young adults with and without disabilities at both national and state levels. In cases where data is not available or applicable for the under 16 or 18 population, we have noted the age ranges used.
Disability Rates: While the population of youth and young adults with disabilities varies by state, in those states with the highest rates of disability for 14–24 year-olds, the rates were more than twice that of states with the lowest rates of disability. Disability prevalence in this age group ranged f rom a high of 11.4 percent in Maine to a low of 4.3 percent in Hawaii. The largest category of disability, which is self-reported through the U.S. Census, was cognitive difficulty (70.1 percent of youth with disabilities nationally). Cognitive difficulty is a broad category that includes youth and young adults with autism, Down Syndrome, traumatic brain injury, dementia, attention deficit disorder, specific learning disability, and mental and emotional challenges.
High School Completion: Educational outcomes and attainment gaps between youth and young adults with and without disabilities varied by state. High school completion for students with disabilities ranged f rom the highest rate in Delaware (86.2 percent) to the lowest rate in Louisiana (68 percent). In addition, there remained a significant gap in high school attainment when comparing students with and without disabilities, with the widest gap at more than 18.6 percent. The trend f rom 2018 through 2020 showed a decrease in the gap nationally between youth with and without disabilities. However, Delaware was the only state with a high school attainment gap close to zero (0.8 percent) in 2020.
College Enrollment: College enrollment rates for young adults aged 18-24 with disabilities in the U.S. was 27.5 percent compared to the national average of 43.3 percent for young adults without disabilities. States varied f rom the highest college enrollment rate at 41.1 percent in Rhode Island to the lowest enrollment rate at 12.7 percent in Alaska. The average gap in college enrollment between young adults with and without disabilities was about 15.8 percent nationally; no state has closed this gap. However, California has shown a slight increase in college enrollment for youth with disabilities f rom 2017 (32.6 percent) to 2020 (36.2 percent).
College Completion: College completion at the bachelor’s degree level is another measure of success for young adults with disabilities. Academic success among states varied f rom the highest completion rate in Washington, D.C. (16.2 percent) to the lowest rate of completion in Wyoming (0.6 percent). The gap between those college students with and without disabilities was 7.5 percent. The narrowest gap in bachelor’s degree attainment at 3.3 percent was in Mississippi, but the state also had the highest enrollment rate gap of college students with disabilities at 21.7 percent.
Employment: Nationally, youth and young adults with disabilities (ages 14–24) are about 15 percent less likely to be employed than their peers without disabilities. Wisconsin had the highest employment rates for youth and young adults with disabilities at 38.8 percent compared to the lowest rates of employment in West Virginia at 21.1 percent. Of those youth and young adults with disabilities who were employed, the employment patterns are similar, with young people most likely to be employed by a private for-profit company or business. Nationally, there has been a slight trend over the past three years showing an increase in employment rates for youth with disabilities f rom 25.9 percent in 2018 to 27.5 percent in 2020. For example, Kansas has shown an increase in employment rates for youth with disabilities while also decreasing the gap between youth with and without disabilities. In the case of Wyoming, the rate of employment for youth with disabilities f rom 2018 to 2020 decreased by nearly 6 percent.
Opportunity Youth: Opportunity youth and young adults are commonly defined as those ages 14-24 who are neither in school nor employed. Our report examines the opportunity youth who are not in school and not in the labor force, which represents a true disconnection f rom systems. Opportunity youth with disabilities represented 19.7 percent of the national population compared to only 5.6 percent of opportunity youth without disabilities.
Poverty: Youth and young adults with disabilities are also more likely to live in poverty than their peers without disabilities. Poverty rates in some states, such as Kentucky, New Mexico, and Mississippi were more than 30 percent compared to a national average of 23.3 percent for youth with disabilities; those rates were also higher than the national average poverty rate for youth without disabilities at 16.9 percent. A few states—Delaware, North Dakota, and South Dakota—showed a narrowing of the gap between youth with and without disabilities living in poverty between 2018 and 2020.
What do the data tell us about youth and young adults with disabilities?
In this fourth annual Youth Transition report, the gaps between youth and young adults with and without disabilities (ages 14-24) remain significant in almost every state in the U.S. across education, employment, engagement, and poverty indicators. Continued patterns of low high school and college completion lead to lower rates of employment and earnings, which in turn lead to higher rates of poverty for people with disabilities. These patterns continue into adulthood. Youth with disabilities are more likely to be disengaged from school and the workforce, another indicator that these youth are not sufficiently recognized and supported by the systems that are required to serve them. Students with disabilities are more likely to be bullied, more likely to be suspended, and more likely to have higher absentee rates and drop out of school altogether. For those in search of employment, services often fail to provide access to youth with disabilities. For example, an evaluation of American Job Centers in 2016 showed that federally funded employment services were limited by a lack of physical, programmatic, and communication access. The COVID-19 pandemic, which began in March 2020, exacerbated challenges for youth with disabilities who were in school. Initial research shows that many school districts were unprepared to serve students with disabilities remotely, which led to greater rates of absenteeism particularly for students and families that lacked accessible technology and internet access. Similarly, students with disabilities served by the education system on Indian and Native American Lands faced a variety of technology barriers. Employment rates for people with disabilities dropped at the onset of the pandemic, and while employment has increased since then, there remains a significant gap between those with and without disabilities. The one exception reflected in employment data since early 2020 has been an increase in remote jobs, which has allowed some people with disabilities to find and maintain employment. This exception does not reflect the many people with disabilities who struggle with transportation, health, and educational barriers that prevent them from entering the workforce and maintaining employment.
View the full 2022 report, as well as previous reports below:
Suggested Citation: Cheng, L., & Shaewitz, D. (2022). The 2022 youth transition report: Outcomes for youth and young adults with disabilities. Washington, D.C.: Institute for Educational Leadership.
Suggested Citation: Cheng, L., & Shaewitz, D. (2021). The 2021 youth transition report: Outcomes for youth and young adults with disabilities. Washington, DC: Institute for Educational Leadership
Suggested Citation: Cheng, L., & Shaewitz, D. (2020). The 2020 Youth Transition Report: Outcomes for Youth and Young Adults with Disabilities. Washington, DC: Institute for Educational Leadership.
Suggested Citation: Cheng, L., & Shaewitz, D. (2019). The 2019 Youth Transition Report: Outcomes for Youth and Young Adults with Disabilities. Washington, DC: Institute for Educational Leadership.