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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

New Report on Representation of Young People Examines Disability Representation

On September 25th, Generation Progress, a section of the Center for American Progress, published “A Generation without Representation: How Young People are Severely Underrepresented Among Legislators.” This report examines the representation gap between the 62 million American Millennials who were of voting age during the 2016 election and older generations, and found that although young people are 34% of the electorate, they make up only 6% of legislators.  

The report also goes into detail on representation of marginalized groups, including race and ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, religion, education, military experience, and disability. On representation of people with disabilities, the report discusses the lack of reliable statistics on disability representation and the exclusion of disability in candidate recruitment and development, as well as references NCIL’s open source database on candidates with disabilities running in 2018: 

“There are no reliable numbers of people with disabilities holding elected state office, so our analysis was unable to address this question in a comprehensive way. The portion of legislators with disabilities is especially difficult to determine given that many people who have a disability or chronic condition may not have a visually identifiable disability or identify as part of the disability community. A majority of candidate recruitment and development programs do not actively include “disability” in their targeted outreach or their language focusing on diversity. Given that one in five Americans live with a disability, the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) has identified this need and is working to encourage research institutions to develop methods for a solid quantitative analysis that answers this question.

NCIL has found that only 10 candidates with a disability are running for either the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate in 2018. Meanwhile, on the state level, there are several examples of young people who identify as part of the disability community attaining or running for state office. The most prominent example is Billie Sutton, the Democratic nominee for governor in South Dakota, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a rodeo accident in 2007. In Washington, Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib, age 37, is blind.

Millennials have also been shown to be more open to discussing mental health. This openness can impact conversations around representation of the disability community among elected officials. However, without solid data, we are unable to say how generational diversity could impact the representation of the disability community among legislators. “

You can access the full report over at Generation Progress

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