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New Report Finds Gap in Political Representation of People with Disabilities.
According to a new study by Professors Lisa Schur and Douglas Kruse, co-directors of the Program for Disability Research in the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, an estimated 10.3 percent of elected officials serving in federal, state, and local government have disabilities. That is more than five percentage points lower than the overall disability rate in the adult population studied in this data.
This report marks the first quantitative study of representation of people with disabilities in elected office. Schur and Kruse analyzed 2013-17 data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which measures disability on four kinds of impairment (hearing, visual, mobility, cognitive) and difficulty with basic activities inside or outside the home. The researchers’ key findings include:
- 15.7 percent of adults and 10.3 percent of elected officials have a disability. That is a gap of 5.4 percentage points, suggesting that people with disabilities are underrepresented in elected positions.
- 12 percent of elected officials in local government have a disability, compared to 6.9 percent at the state level and 6.3 percent at the federal level.
- The rate of disability is slightly lower among women elected officials at 8.3 percent, than among men elected officials at 11.4 percent.
- The vast majority of elected officials with disabilities are white, non-Hispanic men.