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Chartbook on Women and Disability

Section 2: Children and youth with disability

2.1. Are there gender differences in the prevalence of disability among children?

According to the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) and other surveys, boys have a higher prevalence rate of disability than girls. Based on estimates from the SIPP, 8.5 million children and youth 21 years and younger have a disability. Boys and young men (12%) are more likely than girls and young women (8%) to have a disability (McNeil, 1997). These gender differences hold true across the different age groups of children and youth, as shown in the chart below.

A combination of physiological, maturational, behavioral and social differences between girls and boys may account for these differences in prevalence rates. Girls may be less prone to disability because they have two X chromosomes which protect against certain conditions. Girls tend to mature more rapidly, making them better able to handle early school environments where disabilities are often identified. Differences in behavior in school settings may also predispose boys to being identified as having a disability [U.S. Dept. of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation (OSERS), 1998, pp. II27-30].

Lower disability rates are reported for girls than for boys.

Vertical bar chart. Go to Data Table for Figure 6 for the data values shown in this chart.

Figure 6: Disability rates for children and youth (0 to 21 years old) by age group and gender

Data Table for Figure 6

Source: McNeil (1997). Website:

Surveys: SIPP, 1994-95

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