Deaf Youth: What Does the Data Tell Us?
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.
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Fewer deaf youth have completed high school, some college, or a bachelor’s degree than their hearing peers.
Deaf youth who are BIPOC, deafdisabled, and deafblind face more barriers in educational systems, as demonstrated by educational completion rates.
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.
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)
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.