Predictors of post-high school employment among young adults with disabilities

Authors: Reif, S., Horgan, C., Ritter, G., & Tompkins, C.
Year Published 2002
Publication Career Development for Exceptional Individuals
Volume 25
Number 1
Pages 25-40
Publisher Sage

Employment status is one of the most frequently researched outcomes following school exit for young adults with disabilities. Reported employment rates have been low, particularly for full-time employment. Factors related to transition success have also been investigated.


The purpose of this study was to examine data from the Alabama Transition Initiative related to student outcomes. The aim was to identify school, student, and program related variables that contributed to successful employment after school.


The study settings were 37 of Alabama‚ 128 public school systems. These school systems served as the state‚ demonstration sites for its transition systems change project. They were selected through ATI‚ annual competition for transition mini-grants to enhance their transition programs through implementation of a set of best practices and participation in the Alabama Student Tracking System.


The sample consisted of 1,393 former special education students from the participating school systems and who responded to a follow-up survey. The majority the sample members were male (67%) and Caucasian (52%), with 38% African-American. The largest disability group was those with learning disabilities (42%) followed by those with intellectual disabilities (20%).

Data Collection

Data for this study were obtained through the Alabama Student Tracking System and a follow-along survey one year post school exit related to participation in employment, postsecondary education, and other adult activities. Data analysis was a hierarchical logistic regression analysis.


There were no control or comparison groups.


The follow-up survey found that 73% of former students were employed one year following school exit. Employment outcomes were better for those who were male, with learning disabilities, from urban school systems. Related to the interventions, having a job at school exit was a significant predictor of post-school employment, but assistance from VR or MH/MI services were not.


These findings suggest that students with disabilities can benefit from paid work experiences while in high school. In addition, females in rural settings need better transition planning and programs.

Disabilities Intellectual disabilities | Specific learning disabilities
Populations Transition-age youth (14 - 24) | Black / African American | White / Caucasian
Outcomes Employment acquisition
NIDILRR Funded Not Reported
Research Design Observational
Peer Reviewed Yes