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Characteristics of the U.S. Population of Women with DisabilitiesCROWD logo

Prepared by the Center for Research on Women with Disabilities

What is the number and percentage of women with disabilities?

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, of the 132 million non-institutionalized, civilian women over age 5 in the population, 19.1 percent (25,306,717) had some type of disability.1 This included sensory, physical, mental, or self-care limitations plus limitations in going outside the home and employment. The number of women living in nursing homes is 1 million, or 5.3 percent of the population of women over age 65.2

Taken together, these two groups comprise 24.4 percent (26 million) of women in the United States. This statistic does not include girls under age 5, women in the military, or women in any other type of congregate living situation besides nursing homes, such as dormitories or group homes. It is not clear whether or not this statistic also excludes women living in nursing homes who are under age 65.

How is this statistic broken down by disability type and age?


Disability Type (mutually exclusive)






Going outside the home

Employment disability

5-15 years








16-64 years 17.6% 1.9% 6.4% 3.7% 1.9% 6.4% 10.9%
65+ years 43.0% 13.2% 30.7% 11.4% 11.0% 23.0% --

What conditions cause activity limitations in women?

The most common conditions limiting activity in women age 18 and older are arthritis or rheumatism (24.8 percent), followed by back or neck problem (21.0 percent); heart problem (15.1 percent); hypertension (12.1 percent); depression, anxiety, or emotional problem (11.6 percent); fracture, bone, or joint injury (10.9 percent); diabetes (10.4 percent); lung or breathing problem (10.3 percent); and vision problem (8.3 percent).2 Women outnumber men with arthritis or rheumatism in every age category.

How do rates of employment and salary level of working-age women with physical disabilities compare to women without disabilities and men with physical disabilities?

For both women and men with disabilities between 21 and 64 years old, only about one-third are employed. When you look at those who are employed year-round full-time, it is still only about one-third (women with physical disabilities 30.7 percent versus 69.2 percent for women without disabilities; men with physical disabilities 33.7 percent versus 83.2 percent for men without disabilities).3 Women with physical disabilities earn a median of $25,201 per year, which is substantially less than men with physical disabilities ($32,345) or women without disabilities ($28,164); they earn only 77 percent of the relative US median income.4


How does the level of education of women with disabilities compared to women without disabilities and men with disabilities?

Women with disabilities between 18 and 34 years old have lower educational attainment than women without disabilities. Those who are not currently enrolled in school in this age group are more likely not to be a high school graduate (26.3 percent versus 15.3 percent) and less likely to have a bachelor degree or greater (9.2 percent versus 26.3 percent). Men with disabilities have even lower educational attainment, being more likely than men without disabilities not to be a high school graduate (30.1 percent versus 19.1 percent) and less likely to have a bachelor degree or greater (6.8 percent versus 21.3 percent).5


What percentage of women with disabilities lives below the poverty level?

More than a quarter of women with disabilities live below the poverty level. For women with disabilities age 21 to 64, more than two and one-half times as many live in poverty than women with no disability in the same age group (26.4 percent versus 10.5 percent). In every age group, more women with disabilities live in poverty than men with disabilities.6



1 Characteristics of the Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population by Age, Disability Status, and Type of Disability: 2000, U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000, Summary File 3, P042.

2 Lethbridge-Çejku M, Schiller JS, Bernadel L. Summary health statistics for U.S. Adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2002. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10(222). 2004.

3 PCT041. Sex by age by physical disability by employment status for the civilian noninstitutionalized population 5 years and over. 2003 American Community Survey Summary Tables.

4 Table 4. Employment and Earnings by Disability Status for Civilian Noninstitutionalized Women 21 to 64 Years: 2000. U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000.

5 PCT046. Sex by disability status by school enrollment by educational attainment for the civilian noninstitutionalized population 18 to 34 years, 2003 American Community Survey Summary Tables.

6 P060. Sex by age by disability status by poverty status for the civilian noninstitutionalized population 5 years and over. 2003 American Community Survey Summary Tables.

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