Deaf Postsecondary Data Dashboard

Postsecondary experiences of deaf people vary widely across the nation. This dashboard provides current estimates for employment and educational attainment in the United States based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

For older data reports using ACS data, please see the UT repository.

About the Data Dashboard

About This Data

Data for this dashboard are taken from the American Community Survey, an annual survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, providing the most recent information on employment and educational trends for deaf people in the United States. Survey respondents who stated that they were deaf, or had serious difficulty hearing, were used to represent the deaf population in these analyses. The 2021 sample included 41,875 deaf people, and the 5-year sample (2016-2020) used for state-level data included 383,200 deaf people. For more information, see our FAQs page.

Bloom, C.L, Palmer, J.L., & Winninghoff, J. (2023). Deaf Postsecondary Data from the American Community Survey
          [Data visualization tool]. National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes, University of Texas at Austin.
          www.nationaldeafcenter.org/dashboard

Data Dashboard FAQs

The Census Bureau convened a task force to develop the disability questions for the American Community Survey. They decided to avoid disability and identity labels and instead use functional limitations. The purpose is to capture more people with disabilities, especially those who do not identify with having a disability. Anyone who answers yes to the question are you deaf or have serious difficulty hearing is considered deaf in our dashboard. With this dataset there is no way to identify who is deaf, hard of hearing, or late deafened.

The ACS estimates 3.6% of the U.S. population is “deaf or have serious difficulty hearing.”

This dashboard includes employment data for deaf people ages 16-64, commonly considered to be the working-age population, and education data for deaf people ages 25-64, used to calculate educational attainment rates. If you would like to learn more about deaf people younger than 16, check out Disability Statistics, or the American Community Survey Table Generator.

The federal government describes people without a job as people who are unemployed or not in the labor force. People who reported being currently, or recently, looking for work, are counted as unemployed. People who are not currently employed, and are not looking for work, are counted as not in the labor force. This latter group may include students, parents, caretakers, or retired people, for example.

The American Community Survey collects information about how well a person speaks English, and allows people to write in the additional languages used in the home. The ACS does not ask about knowledge or use of sign language. For current estimates about sign language use, see Mitchell & Young, (2022).

The American Community Survey does not collect data about the type of school deaf people attend so we do not know which educational environment people in this sample had attended. For estimates about deaf students in different educational environments, see Palmer et al., 2020; IDEA Section 618 Data or OSEP Fast Facts (2022).

The American Community Survey provides data in 1-year and 5-year estimates. The dashboard uses 1-year estimates for the national-level data to provide the most current employment and education rates. 5-year estimates, which are larger, are used for state-level data to ensure that the sample size is large enough to be representative.

Terminology Definition
Education
Education Attainment Completed at least this level of education or higher
Enrollment Rate The percentage of people currently enrolled in postsecondary education and training,
Employment & Earnings
Full-time Worked at least 35 hours per week for 50 to 52 weeks in the past 12 months
Median earnings Wage “in the middle” of people working full time. 
Not in the labor force Not currently working, and has not looked for work in the last 3 months
Unemployed Not currently working, and is currently, or recently, looking for work.
Description of Employment: Self-employed or other
The ACS asks the following question: Self-Employed or Other
  • Owner of non-incorporated business, professional practice, or farm
  • Owner of incorporated business, professional practice, or farm
  • Worked without pay in a for-profit family business or farm for 15 hours or more per week
Self-employed Anyone who answers as owner of an incorporated or unincorporated business, professional practice, or farm; those who work without pay in a for-profit family business for 15 hours or more per week
Business Owner Anyone who answers as owner of an incorporated business, professional practice, or farm
Race
The ACS asks one question about the person’s race that reads: “What is the person’s race?” and offers the following options:
  • White
  • Black or African American
  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Chinese
  • Filipino
  • Asian Indian
  • Other Asian
  • Vietnamese
  • Korean
  • Japanese
  • Native Hawaiian
  • Samoan
  • Chamorro
  • Other Pacific Islander
  • Some other race
  The ACS also asks “Is this person…
  • Not of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin
  • Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano
  • Puerto Rican
  • Cuban
  • Yes, other, fill in the blank
  We use these data points to develop the Race & Ethnicity categories on our dashboard. 
Gender
The ACS asks: What is your sex?
  • Male
  • Female
  They do not offer nonbinary, transgender, or other gender identities at this time. For more information about how the ACS collects this data, click here.
Disability
The ACS asks the following questions based on functional limitations:  
  • deaf or having serious difficulty hearing
 
  • blind or having serious difficulty seeing, even when wearing glasses 
 
  • Because of a physical, mental, or emotional problem, having difficulty remembering, concentrating, or making decisions 
 
  • Having serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs
 
  • Self-care difficulty  Having difficulty bathing or dressing
 
  • Because of a physical, mental, or emotional problem, having difficulty doing errands alone such as visiting a doctor’s office or shopping 
Deaf Anyone who answers yes to “deaf or have serious difficulty hearing” 
Deafblind Anyone who answers yes to “deaf or have serious difficulty hearing” and “blind or do you have serious difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses?”
Deafdisabled Anyone who answers yes to “deaf or have serious difficulty hearing” and any other disability question other than “blind or do you have serious difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses?”
Deaf without any additional disabilities Anyone who answers yes to “deaf or have serious difficulty hearing” and answers no to the other disability questions.

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