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Chartbook on Women and Disability

Section 2: Children and youth with disability

2.4. Do girls and boys have different rates of participation in special education?

Although girls and boys are equally represented in the school-age population, boys comprise about two-thirds of students in special education. The chart below shows that the greatest discrepancies exist in the categories of learning disability and emotional disturbance, which have the most broadly defined eligibility criteria. Girls in special education score lower on IQ tests, and were reported to have disabilities at earlier ages, both of which suggest more severe disabilities. In addition to possible physiological and maturational differences, school biases in identifying boys for special education may be a factor in these discrepancies. Once girls are in special education, they do as well or better academically as their male peers. Upon graduation from special education, however, girls are less likely to be employed, earn lower wages and are less likely to enroll in post secondary training or education (U.S. Department of Education, OSERS, 1998). These findings suggest a strong need for further research to investigate and find solutions to these problems.

About two-thirds of children in special education are boys.

Horizontal bar chart. Go to Data Table for Figure 9 for the data values shown in this chart.

Figure 9: Percentage enrolled in special education, by gender and disability type

Data Table for Figure 9

Source: U.S. Dept of Education, OSERS (1998); Valdes et al. (1990).

Surveys: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Data Analysis System

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