Research on racial disparities in disability identification cited by the Brookings Institution

Three Penn State researchers and their colleague replicated an earlier but provocative study that found that minority children are less likely to be identified as having disabilities as they attend U.S. schools. Their work is now being cited in a new analysis by the Brookings Institution, which also finds evidence of racial disparities. 

Penn State researchers Paul Morgan, CEDR director, PRI affiliate and professor of education and demography; Marianne Hillemeier, associate director of PRI and professor of health policy and administration and demography; and Steve Maczuga, PRI research programmer/analyst; along with George Farkas, a professor of education at the University of California, replicated an earlier finding that minority children are under-identified as disabled, despite being otherwise similar including in regards to academic and behavioral functioning. Their new results were published in Educational Researcher, one of the educational research field’s highest-impact journals.

The Brookings Institution’s report also brought in data from the newly-released 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) to compare how student characteristics are related to participation in special education and access to speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy—services that may be delivered as part of a child’s special education plan.

The Penn State research was supported by the Spencer Foundation; the Population Research Institute, part of Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute; the National Institute for Child and Human Health and Development; and the National Institutes of Health.