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What Are the Employment Experiences of Youth with Autism After High School?

Data Note No. 40

By:

Originally published: 9/2012

Data Source: The National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS-2)

The National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS-2) includes a nationally representative sample of students with disabilities who were 13 to 16 years old and in special education in 2000. Data were collected through five waves over a period of ten years. For this data note we focused on data collected in 2008-2009 (Wave Five), when all youth were 21 to 25 years old.

The questions about employment were the following:

  1. Did you do any work for pay, other than work around the house, at any time since high school?
  2. Do you have a paid job now, other than work around the house?

As the number of youth diagnosed with autism increases across the nation, there is a growing interest in knowing about their employment experiences after high school. To explore this, we examined the findings from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2.

As Table 1 shows, over half of youth with autism worked at some point after leaving high school (67%). This figure was greater than for their peers with an intellectual disability (ID) (53%), although smaller compared with their peers with other disabilities (86%). When looking only at those employed at the time of the interview, however, the figures were smaller across all disability groups.

Youth with autism were more likely to work in office and administrative support (21%) compared to youth with ID (7%) and youth with other disabilities (8%). They were also less likely to work in the food industry (12%) or to do cleaning and maintenance (10%) compared to their peers with ID (20% and 19%).

Almost half of the youth with autism earned less than the federal minimum wage and reported that the majority of their co-workers were people with disabilities (42%). In addition, only about a third of youth with autism received paid vacation or sick leave (29%), and even less received health insurance (11%) or retirement benefits (10%). Despite these limitations, respondents indicated that work was an important positive experience: Over 85% of youth across the three disability groups reported liking their job very much or fairly well.

As the number of youth diagnosed with autism increases nationally, knowing more about their employment experiences after high school is an important first step toward improvement.

Table 1. Employment Outcomes of Transition-Age Youth

Autism (%)

ID (%)

Other (%)

Worked for pay other than work around the house since leaving high school

Yes

67

53*

86*

No

33

47

14

Total

100

100

100

Currently has a paid job other than work around the house

Yes

45

37

61*

No

55

63

39

Total

100

100

100

Type of current or most recent job

Office and administrative support

21

7*

8*

Production

17

22

6*

Food preparation and serving

12

20*

12

Cleaning and maintenance

10

19*

5

Transportation and material moving

8

10

8

Sales

3

7

10*

Other

29

14*

50*

Total

100

100

100

Paid at least $5.15/hour and coworkers without disability

Yes

58

69*

99***

No

42

31

1

Total

100

100

100

Received paid vacation or sick leave

Yes

29

38

36

No

71

62

64

Total

100

100

100

Received health insurance

Yes

11

22

29*

No

89

78*

71

Total

100

100

100

Received retirement benefits

Yes

10

22

25*

No

90

78*

75

Total

100

100

100

How well youth likes/liked his/her current or most recent job

Very much

34

64**

44*

Fairly well

53

28**

43*

Not much

3

8*

8*

Not at all

10

na

5

Total

100

100

100

Note. Cohen h effect sizes (Autism baseline): *Small **Medium ***Large

Because some youth may have reported wages relative to jobs performed in as early as 2006, we used the federal minimum wage of $5.15 in place at that time.

Acknowledgments

The development of this data note was funded by grant R40MC22646 through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Research Program. This is a publication of StateData.info, funded in part by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities, US Department of Health and Human Services (#90DN0216). This Data Note was cleared for dissemination on July 11th, 2012 by the IES Data Security Office.

A project of the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston

Suggested Citation

Migliore, A. and Zalewska, A. (2012). What Are the Employment Experiences of Youth with Autism After High School? DataNote Series,
DataNote 40. Boston, MA: University of Massachusetts Boston, Institute for Community Inclusion.

StateData.info

This is a publication of StateData.info, funded in part by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (#90DN0216).

A project of the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston

ICI: promoting inclusion for people with disabilities