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Inequality, Racial disparity, Education -- Social aspects -- United States, People with disabilities -- Social conditions -- Research


The disproportionate identification of learning disabilities among certain sociodemographic subgroups, typically groups that are already disadvantaged, is perceived as a persistent problem within the education system. The academic and social experiences of students who are misidentified with a learning disability may be severely restricted, whereas students with a learning disability who are never identified are less likely to receive the accommodations and modifications necessary to learn at their maximum potential. The authors use the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 to describe national patterns in learning disability identification. Results indicate that sociodemographic characteristics are predictive of identification with a learning disability. Although some conventional areas of disproportionality are confirmed (males and language minorities), differences in socioeconomic status entirely account for African American and Hispanic disproportionality. The discrepancy between the results of bivariate and multivariate analyses confirms the importance of employing multivariate multilevel models in the investigation of disproportionality.


This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Sociological Inquiry. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in J Learn Disabil. 2011 ; 44(3): 246–257.

*At the time of publication Dara Shifrer was affiliated with Rice University

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