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Chartbook on Women and Disability

Section 4: Living arrangements, family life, and medical experiences

4.2. What percentage of women and men with and without disability are parents?

Based on estimates from the 1993 SIPP, about 6.9 million adults with a disability are parents. (For these estimates, a parent is defined as a adult between 18 and 64 years who reports having at least one child under 18 years in the home. Parents with stepchildren or adopted children under 18 are included but parents with grown children are not included.) These 6.9 million disabled parents represent about 11% of the total estimated population of 57.9 million parents. They represent about 30% of the approximately 23 million disabled adults between the ages of 18 and 64 years (Toms-Barker & Maralani, 1997).

The National Resource Center on Parents with Disabilities at Through the Looking Glass (TLG) analyzed the SIPP data on parenting. Women, regardless of their disability status, are more likely than men to have children at home. [LaPlante, Carlson, Kaye, and Bradsher (1996) also found that women were more often single parents.] One-third of women with disabilities (33%) have children at home, compared to about one-quarter (26%) of men with disabilities. Gender differences are even greater for the subset of people with severe disabilities, with nearly one third of women (31%) but only 18% of men parenting minor children.

Regardless of their disability status, higher percentages of women are parenting children under the age of 18, compared to men.

Go to Data Table for Figure 20 for the data values shown in this chart.

Figure 20: Percentage of adults with children under 18 years old in home, by disability status and gender

Data Table for Figure 20

Source: Toms-Barker & Maralani (1997). (See TLG Website: http://www.lookingglass.org)

Surveys: SIPP, 1993

The National Resource Center on Parents with Disabilities compared parents with a disability with two other groups: parents with no disability and adults with a disability who are not parents. The data are summarized in the table below. Compared to parents with no disability, parents with a disability were found to be economically and educationally disadvantaged, reporting lower incomes, higher rates of public assistance, higher high school drop-out rates and lower college attendance. Interestingly, more than one-quarter (26%) of parents with a disability report that their spouse has a disability, compared to only 8% of non-disabled parents. In addition, 14% of parents with disabilities had a child with a disability, compared to only 3% of non-disabled parents. This may be due in part to parents with a disability adopting or providing foster care to children with a disability.

Among people with a disability, parents were younger and more likely to be married than non-parents, differences that are due primarily to the age of childbearing. Compared to adults with a disability who were not parents, a higher percentage of parents with a disability had attended college and were employed. Although average monthly income was slightly higher for parents than non-parents, the parents also had children to support. Larger family size may also explain the fact that parents had higher rates of receiving food stamps and housing assistance, compared to non-parents.

Parents with a disability differ demographically from parents with no disability and adults with a disability who are not parents

Characteristic Parents
with
disability
Parents
with
no disability
Adults
with disability
who are not
parents
Age (average) 39 36 48
White 70% 74% 77%
Married 73% 84% 47%
Employed 52% 78% 43%
High school dropout 29% 13% 33%
Attended college 37% 52% 31%
Receive food stamps 28% 10% 12%
Receive housing assistance 9% 4% 7%
Monthly household income $2,892 $3,823 $2,728
Severely disabled 49% N/A 61%
Spouse is disabled 27% 8% 39%
Have disabled child 14% 3% N/A
Estimated total in population 6.9 million 51 million 16 million

Table 3: Characteristics of parents with disability, parents with no disability and adults with disability who are not parents

Source: Toms-Barker & Maralani (1997). (See TLG Website: http://www.lookingglass.org)

Surveys: SIPP, 1993

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