Deaf Youth: What Does the Data Tell Us?

There are about 280,000 deaf young people in the United States between the ages of 16 and 24.

Deaf young people in the United States who are between the age of 16 and 24 are a highly diverse group – while some of them are still in high school, many are working or continuing their education. However, more deaf youth are not working or going to school, compared to hearing people in the same age group. This is an opportunity to improve systems of support so more deaf youth have equitable access in school and the workplace.

What Do We Know About Deaf Young People?

There are an estimated 280,000 deaf young people ages 16-24 living in the United States. They are more racially and ethnically diverse than older deaf people, more likely than their hearing peers to live in households where no one is working, and nearly half have an additional disability.

Click on any image to enlarge.

A bar chart depicting demographic percentages, with categories such as "Asian and Pacific Islander," "Native American," "Multiracial," "Deaf," "Black," "Latinx," and "White." The percentages associated with each category are also listed.
(A bar chart shows the racial makeup of deaf youth; 3.5% Asian and Pacific Islander, 13.8% Black, 22.8% Latinx, 1.1% Native American, 5.2% Multiracial, 53.6% White)
A pie chart showing different percentages associated with the deaf youth community. It includes categories such as "DEAFBLIND," "DEAF," and "DEAFDISABLED."
(A donut chart with an icon of a person shows percentages of deaf youth; 55.1% are deaf, 20.2% are deafblind, 24.7% are deafdisabled)
A image of planet earth with the text "8.2%" inside the earth and a text on the bottom, "were born outside of the United States"
(An illustration of Earth is under the text: "8.2%" with further text beneath that reads "were born outside of the United States")
A ring with text inside. The text indicates that 7.6% are married.
An illustration of a diamond ring with text: "7.6% are married")
A image of a baby stroller with a text indicating that 4.4% are caring for a child less than 1 year old.
(An illustration of a baby carriage with text: "4.4% are caring for a child less than 1 year old")
A outline picture of a building with pillars with the text 3.0% receive SSI or SNAP benefits.
(An illustration of a building and text: "3.0% receive SSI or SNAP benefits")

Fewer deaf youth have completed high school, some college, or a bachelor’s degree than their hearing peers.

A bar chart showing the percentages of deaf and hearing youth with different levels of education. The categories include "High School," "Some College," and "Bachelor's Degree or Higher." The chart visually represents the differences in educational attainment between deaf and hearing youth.
(A bar chart shows differences between deaf youth and hearing youth. High School: 65.3%, 69.6%; Some College: 34.6%, 43.3%; Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 5.6%, 9.5%)

Deaf youth who are BIPOC, deafdisabled, and deafblind face more barriers in educational systems, as demonstrated by educational completion rates.

table showing educational attainment percentages for different racial groups within the deaf community. The table lists the percentages for individuals with a bachelor's degree or higher for each racial group. The racial groups included are Asian, Black, Latinx, Native American, Multiracial, and White.
(Table showing percentages of completion for various racial backgrounds in high school, some college, and bachelor's degree or higher. deaf Asian: 67.2%, 44.8%, 9.2%; deaf Black: 61.0%, 30.5%, 2.5%; deaf Latinx: 62.5%, 25.5%, 6.8%; deaf Native American: 55.9%, 14.1%, 0.56%; deaf multiracial: 63.2%, 30.7%, 4.9%; deaf White: 68.3%, 28.5%, 5.4%)
A table that includes percentages related to educational attainment and race among the deaf community. It shows the percentages of individuals with a variety level of educations in different disabilities within the deaf community.
(Table showing percentages of completion for deaf, deafdisabled, and deaf without additional disabilities in high school, some college, and bachelor's degree or higher. deafdisabled: 57.3%, 24.5%, 3.2%; deafblind: 60.2%, 28.4%, 4.6%; deaf without additional disabilities: 70.7%, 41.3%, 6.9%)

It’s important to remember that deaf youth are not all the same—they have different backgrounds and experiences. Unfortunately, fewer deaf young people are completing high school, attending college, or earning a bachelor’s degree compared to their hearing peers. This is even more challenging for deaf youth who are BIPOC, deafdisabled, or deafblind, as they face additional barriers in the education system, leading to lower completion rates. To support this diverse population, we need to find ways to ensure that our programs are inclusive and accessible. It’s crucial to identify and address the gaps in our current support systems to ensure we are uplifting transition-age youth.

How Engaged Are Deaf Youth in Postsecondary Experiences?

When young adults are neither enrolled in school nor employed, they are often referred to as “disconnected youth” or “opportunity youth.” Examining this group closely allows us to gain insights on how to effectively engage young people and provide them with equal opportunities for ongoing education and work experience.

Deaf youth are disconnected at higher rates than the national average of 12.6%.

Who Are Disconnected Deaf Youth?

Deaf Black and Indigenous or Native American people, as well as deafblind and deafdisabled people, experience the highest rates of disconnection. Disconnected deaf youth are also likely to be a caregiver for an infant, rely on government assistance, and do not have access to the internet.

It is crucial to understand that being disconnected during early adulthood has significant long-term impact on earnings, education, and overall well-being. Deaf youth who are Black and Indigenous or Native American people, deafblind people, and deafdisabled people need more support getting reconnected with postsecondary opportunities. By addressing this issue and implementing strategies to support these people, we can help foster a more promising future for all young adults.

Postsecondary enrollment and employment data for deaf youth age 16-24 (varies by race, ethnicity, and disability)

A table showing percentages of employed, not employed, or enrolled in college or school for different demographic groups within the deaf community. The table includes categories such as deaf Asian, deaf Black, deaf Latinx, deaf Native American, deaf multiracial, deaf white, deafblind, deaf disabled, and deaf without additional disabilities.
(Table showing various racial backgrounds and percentages of employed or enrolled in college and not working or enrolled in college. deaf Asian: 60.8%, 11.6%; deaf Black 42.4%, 30.3%; deaf Latinx: 49.5%, 23.0%; deaf Native American: 38.5%, 35.4%; deaf multiracial: 43.0%, 21.6%; deaf White: 57.1%, 21.3%; deafblind: 44.1%, 32.3%; deafdisabled: 38.2%, 34.9%; deaf without additional disabilities: 63.1%, 13.8%)

Please note that the percentages provided do not add up to 100%, as a portion of the population mentioned is still attending high school.

The data in this report comes from the American Community Survey (ACS), which is a yearly survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. It gives us the most up-to-date information about education trends for deaf people in the United States. We used survey participants who identified as deaf or having serious difficulty hearing to represent the deaf population in our analyses. These estimates are based on a sample of 12,181 deaf people between the ages of 16 and 24 from 2017 to 2021. For additional details, please refer to our FAQs page that provides more information about the ACS data.

National Deaf Center. (2023). Deaf youth: Exploring who they are and their postsecondary journey.
University of Texas at Austin, National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes.

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