Reports & Products: Reports

Youth with Disabilities: A Changing Population (April 2003)

This document describes findings that include the changes in individual and household characteristics of students, services received, and student outcomes from the parent interviews of NLTS (1987) and NLTS2 (2001).


The NLTS/NLTS2 age group had significantly fewer youth classified with mental retardation as their primary disability in 2001 than in 1987.

In 2001, youth with disabilities were more likely to be living in households with at least one biological parent present than in 1987, and the heads of their households were much less likely to be high school dropouts or unemployed.

Improvements in the education or employment status of heads of households were most apparent for the families of low- and middle-income families, which narrowed significantly the gap between middle- and higher-income youth.

Two-year colleges were considered a much more likely option in 2001 than in 1987 for youth in all disability categories, for both boys and girls, for white and African American youth, and for those at all income levels.

By 2001, half of 15- to 17-year-old students with disabilities were receiving related or support services from or through their schools, compared with less than one-third of students in 1987.

There is cause for concern in the increased rate at which youth with disabilities experienced the negative consequences of being suspended or expelled from school, fired from a job, or arrested. By 2001, one in five youth with disabilities had experienced one or more of these consequences of their behavior, up 6 percentage points from 1987.


  • Chapter 1: A Changing Population
  • Chapter 2: Changes in the Individual Characteristics of Youth with Disabilities
  • Chapter 3: Changes in the Households of Youth with Disabilities
  • Chapter 4: Services Received by Youth with Disabilities
  • Chapter 5: Changes in Selected Outcomes of Youth with Disabilities
  • Chapter 6: Achievements and Challenges

Suggested Citation

Wagner, M., Cameto, R., & Newman, L. (2003). Youth with Disabilities: A Changing Population. A Report of Findings from the National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS) and the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2). Menlo Park, CA: SRI International. Available at