Racial-ethnic differences in educational trajectories for individuals with intellectual disability

E. Bisesti, S. D. Landes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Racial-ethnic differences in educational attainment have not been explored among adults with intellectual disability (ID). Because adults with ID and racial-ethnic minority groups have been historically marginalised from educational pathways through life, they have likely experienced cumulative disadvantage. Therefore, investigating the intersection of ID and race-ethnicity is necessary to increase understanding of educational attainment among adults with ID. Methods: Using 1986–2017 National Health Interview Survey data, we examined the educational trajectories of adults with ID, stratified by race-ethnicity (N = 4610). Generalised ordered logistic regression models were utilised to estimate the effect of birth cohort on educational attainment by race-ethnicity among adults with ID. Results: Results support prior findings that educational attainment increased for adults with ID around the 1950–1959 birth cohort; however, this was only the case for non-Hispanic Whites. For racial-ethnic minority groups, the probability of attaining a high school degree did not increase until comparatively later birth cohorts: non-Hispanic Black adults did not have their largest gains in educational attainment until the 1960–1969 birth cohort; Hispanic adults did not have their largest gains in attainment until the 1980–1999 birth cohort. Conclusion: This study provides evidence of improvements in educational attainment for all adults with ID across birth cohorts. However, racial-ethnic disparities were also present – educational attainment levels for non-Hispanic Blacks remained lower than for non-Hispanic Whites across all birth cohorts in the study. Hispanics were able to catch up to and surpass both non-Hispanic Whites and non-Hispanic Blacks by the end of the study period, despite lower levels of education in the early birth cohorts. Results from this study highlight the need to attend to race-ethnicity when examining educational outcomes among adults with ID.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)548-560
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Intellectual Disability Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • birth cohort
  • education
  • education policy
  • ethnicity
  • intellectual disability
  • race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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