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The National Survey of Community Rehabilitation Providers, FY2004-2005 Report 2

Gender Differences in Individual Employment outcomes of People with Developmental Disabilities


Originally published: 3/2008


Policy shifts over the last two decades have led to an increasing emphasis on providing support to people with disabilities entering integrated employment, and the federal government has set the tone for broad-based systems change (Silverstein et al., 2005; Rogan et al., 2002). Even with this clear policy intent, there remains a significant gap in employment rates between people with and without disabilities, especially those with developmental disabilities (DD). This brief presents employment outcomes of men and women with DD who recently entered individual employment with the support of a community rehabilitation provider (CRP). It is the second in a series of brief products that present findings from the FY2004-2005 National Survey of Community Rehabilitation Providers (CRPs)—Individual Employment Outcomes Survey funded by the U.S. Administration on Developmental Disabilities.


Individuals with DD are supported primarily through CRPs, the major source of employment and day services. In the United States, more than 8,100 CRPs provide a broad range of services, programs, and supports to people with disabilities (Menz et al., 2003). Findings from ICI’s National Survey of CRPs—Individual Employment Outcomes Survey, conducted between 2004 and 2005, show that the majority of individuals with DD work part-time predominantly in entry-level positions in the service industry; annual income remains low and individuals have limited access to employee benefits such as health care (Boeltzig et al., in press).

For women with disabilities, a double burden of discrimination in the workplace appears to exist (Randolph, 2005). Research suggests that wage discrimination is common among women with disabilities and discrimination occurs across personal and employment characteristics (O’Hara, 2004). Inequality in access to supports, services, and benefits through Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) has also been documented (Menz et al., 1989). Other disadvantages experienced by women with DD in supported employment settings include placement into jobs traditionally stereotyped by gender such as food service and clerical positions, providing less pay and fewer opportunities for advancement than jobs held by men with DD (Julius et al., 2003; Olsen et al., 2000).


Characteristics of CRP organizations surveyed (N=195)

Main survey findings

Characteristics of individuals with DD who had recently entered integrated employment (N=869)

The survey collected data on 869 individuals who recently entered integrated employment with the support of a CRP. This section, however, presents findings on differences in employment outcomes between men and women with DD who only held individuals jobs (N=706). We used a 5% significance level for all statistical tests.

Gender Differences in Individual Employment Outcomes

On average, men worked only slightly more hours per week than women. Both men and women had a median of 20 weekly working hours. Most men and women worked part-time: 79% of men and 85% of women were reported working less than 35 hours per week in individual employment (see Figure 1). Full-time employment was more likely for men in individual jobs than for women: 21% of men were reported working more than 36 hours per week, compared to 15% of women.

While hourly work weeks were quite similar, on average, men earned more than women ($170 versus $152).* The median weekly wage was $152 for men and $127 for women. Gender differences across wage ranges were statistically significant, with a larger percentage of men at the higher wage ranges ($151-200, $201-250, and $251-300) and a larger percentage of women at the lower wage ranges ($51-100 and $101-150) (see Figure 2).

Findings showed that men earned more on average than women in almost all jobs types, except in assembly and manufacturing and clerical jobs. For example, men working in maintenance and janitorial jobs earned on average $17 more per week than their female co-workers. Women working in assembly and manufacturing jobs earned on average $17 more than their male co-workers. The largest difference between male and female average weekly earnings was in the area of clerical work, with women earning on average $48 more than their male counterparts.

No significant gender differences were found in regard to client access to benefits. Slightly more men than women with individual jobs received paid time off such as sick leave and vacation (see Table 1). A similar picture emerged when looking at access to health care coverage through employers. Only a third of all men and women in individual employment had access to their employer’s health plan, a situation that may be linked to the high percentage of part-time employment.

Women were working in fewer types of jobs, whereas men were working in many different types of jobs (see Table 2).* Men were most likely to work in the maintenance and janitorial sector (31%), food services (23%), and sales (17%). Thirteen percent of men in individual employment held other jobs in areas such as service provision and coordination, adult/special education, or transportation services. In comparison, women with individual jobs mainly worked in food services (34 %), maintenance and janitorial positions (22%), and sales (18%). Thirteen percent of women were reported to hold other jobs such as service provision and coordination as well as self-employment.

*The finding is statistically significant at the 5% level.

Table 1: Access to benefits of men and women with DD in individual employment

Benefit typeMale (N=431)Female (N=275)
Paid time off
Access to employer’s health plan

Table 2: Types of jobs held by men and women with DD in individual employment (N=706)

Job typeMale (N=431)Female (N=275)
Food service9823

Materials handling/mail distribution23562
Sales clerk/stock person73174817
General clerical922810
Technical 9200

Discussion and Implications

Findings from this research show that both CRP and individual characteristics mirror those in the larger population. The profile of the CRPs is comparable to those in other surveys, suggesting that they are representative of the larger universe of CRPs (Metzel et al., 2007). Furthermore, women were underrepresented in integrated jobs, consistent with previous studies (Olson et al., 2000). In comparison to other findings related to demographic characteristics of the individuals with DD, there were no significant differences in the distribution of men and women across age.

In addition to individual characteristics, outcome findings also suggest consistency with previous research. While men and women with DD are earning meaningful wages, the findings suggest that women with DD are working fewer hours in low wage jobs and earn less money, although only the latter was found to be statistically significant. Significant gender differences were found, however, with respect to the types of jobs men and women with DD held in individual employment. More women than men worked in food services and clerical services. In contrast, more men than women worked in the maintenance and janitorial sector: assembly, manufacturing, and packaging; and materials handling and mail distribution. Similar findings were obtained by the Olson et al. (2000) study.

Differences in the types of jobs that men and women with DD held reflect gender differences between men and women with other disabilities and the larger society. Fronczek and Johnson (2003) found differences in the type of jobs men and women without disabilities held. For example, 36.7% of women but only 17.9% of men held jobs in sales and office occupations. A similar situation existed in service occupations, where 18.0% of employees in the study were women and 12.1% were men. In contrast, 17.1% of men and only 0.7% of women worked in construction, extraction, and maintenance occupations; 20.5% of men and 8.0% of women worked in production, transportation, and material moving occupations.

This study did not intend to go beyond identifying and describing gender differences in individual employment outcomes for individuals with DD and investigating the sources of those differences. However, future research should seek to identify the interrelationships among the roles of family, gender, disability, and employment outcomes (Levy et al., 1994). A number of studies have investigated gender bias within the public VR system (e.g., Jans & Stoddard, 1999; Wilson et. al., 2001), which may also be relevant to CRPs.

Figure 1: Average number of hours worked per week by men and women with DD in individual employment (N=704)

Figure 1: Average number of hours worked per week by men and women with DD in individual employment (N=704)

Figure 2: Average weekly earnings of men and women with DD in individual employment (N=698)

Figure 2: Average weekly earnings of men and women with DD in individual employment (N=698)

Data Collection and Methods

The Institute for Community Inclusion has conducted a series of national studies, funded by the U.S. Administration on Developmental Disabilities, that focus on employment and non-work service for providers and people with developmental disabilities. The National Survey of Community Rehabilitation Providers—Individuals Employment Outcomes Survey covered the FY2004-2005 period and collected information from randomly chosen CRPs that provide employment services to individuals with disabilities. The survey methodology used a one-week, point-in-time snapshot of activities, wages, payroll status, and access to benefits. Each respondent was asked to report employment outcomes for five individuals with DD who had entered an integrated job (either individual or group) with the support of the organization within the last two years (2003-2005), and who had been employed in the job for at least 90 days.

The sample of providers was initially developed at the Research and Training Center on Community Rehabilitation Programs at the University of Wisconsin-Stout with input from project staff, and was cross-referenced with lists from other sources including Goodwill, The Arc, United Cerebral Palsy, and CARF. From this sampling frame, researchers randomly drew a sub-sample of 400 CRP addresses for questionnaire mailing. Of the 362 that were valid sample members, 195 returned the survey, yielding a 54% response rate. The 195 CRPs reported on 869 individuals who had recently entered integrated employment with the support of a CRP.

Survey Definitions

Developmental disabilities include, but are not limited to, mental retardation, sensory (e.g., visual and hearing) impairments, neurological disabilities (e.g., autism, epilepsy, spina bifida, traumatic brain injury), and physical disabilities (e.g., cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis) that were acquired prior to age 22.

Integrated Employment

Individual Job: An individual with a disability works in a site where most people do not have disabilities, and receives either on-going job related supports (individual supported employment) or time-limited job-related supports (competitive employment).


Boeltzig, H., Gilmore, D.S. & Butterworth, J. (2006). National Survey of Community Rehabilitation Providers, FY2004-2005 Report 1: Employment outcomes of people with developmental disabilities in integrated employment Research to Practice, 44. Boston, MA: Institute for Community Inclusion/UMass Boston.

Boeltzig, H., Timmons, J.C. & Butterworth, J. (in press). Entering Work: Employment Outcomes of People with Developmental Disabilities. International Journal of Rehabilitation Research.

Fronczek, P. & Johnson, P. (2003). Occupations: 2000 (Census 2000 Brief). Washington, DC : U.S. Census Bureau.

Jans, L. & Stoddard, S. (1999). Chartbook on Women and Disability in the United States. An InfoUse Report. Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

Julius, E., Wolfson, H. & Yalon-Chamovitz, S. (2003). Equally unequal: Gender discrimination in the workplace among adults with mental retardation. WORK, 20, pp. 205-213.

Levy, J.M., Botuck, S., Levy, P.H., Kramer, M.E., Murphy, B.S. & Rimmerman, A. (1994). Differences in job placements between men and women with mental retardation. Disability and Rehabilitation, 16(2), pp.53-57.

Menz, F.E., Botterbusch, K., Foley-Hagen, D. & Johnson, P.T. (2003, April 7). Achieving quality outcomes through community-based rehabilitation programs: The results are in. Paper presented at the 2003 NISH National Training Conference, Denver, CO.

Menz, F. E., Hansen, G., Smith, H., Brown, C., Ford, M. & McCrowey (1989). Gender equity in access, services and benefits from vocational rehabilitation. Journal of Rehabilitation, 55(1), pp.31-40.

Metzel, D.S., Boeltzig, H., Sulewski, S., Butterworth, J. & Gilmore, D.S. (2007). Achieving community membership through community rehabilitation providers’ services: Are we there yet? Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 45(3), pp. 149-160.

O’Hara, B. (2004). Twice penalized: Employment discrimination against women with disabilities. Journal of Social Policy Studies, 15(1), pp. 27-34.

Olson, D., Cioffi, A., Yovanoff, P. & Mank. D. (2000). Gender differences in supported employment. Mental Retardation, 38(2) pp. 89-96.

Randolph, D. S. (2005). The meaning of workplace discrimination for women with disabilities. WORK, 24, pp. 369-380.

Rogan, P., Novak, J., Mank, D. & Martin, R. (2002). From values to practice: State level implementation of supported employment. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 17(1), pp. 47-57.

Silverstein, R., Julnes, G. & Nolan, R. (2005). What policymakers need and must demand from research regarding the employment rate of persons with disabilities. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 23, pp. 399–448.

Wilson, K. B., Harley, D. A., McCormick, K., Jolivette, K. & Jackson, R. L. II (2001). A literature review of vocational rehabilitation acceptance and explaining bias in the rehabilitation process. Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling, 32(I), pp. 24-35.

Related Publications

This project has produced one related Research to Practice brief for the 2004-2005 iteration of the national survey. Report 1 provides a current snapshot of employment outcomes for recently employed individuals with DD. It can be found online at www.communityinclusion.org.


The authors would like to thank the staff of the CRPs for participating in this survey research. We also thank Margot Birnbaum, Rachael B. Webb, Ann Downing, Tim Lewman, Dana S. Gilmore, and Dr. Alan Clayton-Matthews for their invaluable assistance with this work. Fred Menz and staff of the Research and Training Center on Community Rehabilitation Programs at the University of Wisconsin-Stout provided assistance in developing the sample used in this project.

For more information, contact:

Matthew Kusminsky

Institute for Community Inclusion

UMass Boston

100 Morrissey Boulevard

Boston, Massachusetts 02125

617.287.4373 (voice); 617.287.4350 (TTY)



This publication will be made available in alternate formats upon request.

This document was supported in part by cooperative agreement #90ND00204 from the Administration on Developmental Disabilities, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Points of view or opinions do not necessarily represent official Administration on Developmental Disabilities policy.

Figure 1: Average number of hours worked per week by men and women with DD in individual employment (N=704)

Figure 2: Average weekly earnings of men and women with DD in individual employment (N=698)

*Note. Because an individual might not have worked in the week chosen for reporting, “zero hours” was a legitimate response. One man and one woman reported zero working hours.

ICI: promoting inclusion for people with disabilities