Empirical studies on supported employment abound (Bellamy & Melia, 1991; Kiernan, McGaughey, & Schalock, 1991; Revell, Wehman, Kregel, West, & Rayfield, 1994; Rusch, 1986; Shafer, Banks, & Kregel, 1991; Simmons & Flexer, 1992), but few have specifically focused on the emerging rehabilitation needs of urban youth with developmental disabilities, examined differential needs and outcomes for various racial/ethnic groups (Atkins, 1992; Meier-Kronick, 1993; Wilson, O'Reilly, & Rusch, 1991), assessed outcomes for women compared to men (Levy et al., 1994), or considered household income or type of community (Valdes, Williamson, & Wagner, 1990a, 1990b).
Lack of research on urban young people and such factors as gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status is a gap that limits our understanding of resource allocation, access, and equity in the implementation of supported employment programs. Advocates and self-advocates have recently expressed concern with the "underachievement" of supported employment programs (Mank, 1994) and have called for modifications that will benefit persons with severe developmental disabilities (Salkever, 1994). The goals are increased social integration, career choices, and employment retention (Wehman & Kregel, 1994). Despite increasing demand, decreased federal funding and state budget crises squeeze program capacity. The provision of high quality services is threatened and services must be rationed (Salkever, 1994). The current economic and political climate promises further challenges to the employment opportunities of urban young people with developmental disabilities from differing racial/ethnic backgrounds.
The purpose of this paper is to review past research on employment for urban individuals with developmental disabilities as found in the literature, to use the relevant variables in examining job placement outcome data in a sample of urban young adults with developmental disabilities, and to discuss the implications of this analysis for rehabilitation practice, policy and future research.
Sociodemographic Factors and Employment of Individuals with Developmental Disabilities
Urban joblessness is widespread in the U.S. today. Jobs now require higher levels of education and training. Job seekers in central cities find that their skills do not match the current structure of occupations. They also face lack of information and transportation barriers that make it difficult to fill jobs located in the suburbs (Skinner, 1995). Urban young people with developmental disabilities face stiff employment competition.
Supported employment programs are located in metropolitan areas (within and outside central cities) as well as non-metropolitan areas, but comparative studies are rarely reported. One study, The National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS) examined the employment outcomes for urban, suburban, and rural youth with developmental disabilities (Valdes et al., 1990b). The study found that urban young people with mental retardation were less likely to be employed full time or part time (16%) compared to suburban (26%) or rural youth (20%). For young people with all disabilities combined (Valdes et al., 1990a), the employment rates were higher than for young people with mental retardation, but followed the same pattern (urban youth 30%, suburban youth 46%, and rural youth 41% employed).
Emerging rehabilitation issues for African American, Latino, Native American, and Asian American groups are beginning to receive attention (Alston & McCowan, 1994a; Cheng & Tang, 1995; Dais, 1993; Marshall, Johnson, Martin, Saravanabhavan, & Bradford, 1992; Smart & Smart, 1994), but few studies have examined race/ethnicity factors and supported employment for individuals with developmental disabilities. Wilson and colleagues (1991) recently compared minority, primarily African American, enrollment in supported employment to non-minority individuals using state of Illinois data (urban/suburban residence of sample not specified). …