Societal Impact of Learning Disabilities

Comparing Canadian prevalence rates of learning disabilities in adults

Learning disabilities are among the primary impediments to successful educational attainment among both children and adults. Despite bordering with each other, the United States and Canada have different learning disability prevalence rates. Canada has lower prevalence rates in almost all age groups, including children and adults. For instance, only 1.5% of adults that are between 25- and 44-years old struggle with some form of a learning disability in Canada (Bizier et al., 2014). In the United States, however, this number is slightly higher – 2% of adults have learning disabilities (Cortiella & Horowitz, 2014). It should be noted that when the whole population is considered, the situation in the United States is more favorable.

It is reported that 1.7% of the American population has a learning disability, whereas this number is higher in Canada – 2.3% (Cortiella & Horowitz, 2014; Bizier et al., 2014). A detailed examination is required to determine the factors causing this difference. There is another significant difference between Canadian and American prevalence rates. Cortiella and Horowitz (2014) report that only 0.7% of Americans older than 65 have learning disabilities. This number is the lowest among the prevalence rates of various age groups.

However, the situation in Canada is quite the opposite – the number is 3.1%, and it is the highest among age groups (Bizier et al., 2014). In the United States, the highest prevalence rates are observed in high school students that are between 18 and 24 years old – the percentage is 2.7 (Cortiella & Horowitz, 2014). Despite significant differences between age groups, Cortiella and Horowitz (2014) note that the condition of a learning disability is lifelong and does not cease to exist after leaving school. Therefore, differences in percentages between age groups may not be caused by the deterioration of the condition.

Factors that influence prevalence rates

Racial background, poverty, and criminal justice system are factors influencing learning disability prevalence rates. In the United States, the highest rates are observed in non-Hispanic populations, and Asians have the lowest rates (Cortiella & Horowitz, 2014). The differences between the ethnic composition of Canadian and American populations may contribute to the difference in prevalence rates between the countries. Another potentially significant factor is the criminal justice system – 55% of adults that were reported to have a learning disability told that they had involvement with the criminal justice system (Cortiella & Horowitz, 2014). It is not possible to claim whether or not deficiencies in the system contribute to the increased prevalence rates.

Gender influences prevalence rates of learning disabilities in Canada and the U.S.

Gender influences many health outcomes, and there is no exception in the context of learning disabilities. In the United States, 2% of males older than five were reported to have a learning disability (Cortiella & Horowitz, 2014). This number is substantially lower for women – only 1.3% (Cortiella & Horowitz, 2014). In Canada, on the other hand, there are no significant differences between prevalence rates among women and men (Bizier et al., 2014). The difference is negligent, and the Statstcan did not include specific numbers in their report (Bizier et al., 2014). The gender gap in Canada may be smaller than it is in the United States.

Why a decline in learning disabilities occurs in adulthood?

When a child has a learning disability, it is immediately manifested in a form visible to others. Therefore, there are almost no undiagnosed cases of learning disabilities among children. However, when an individual grows up, such issues may not be identified by relatives and friends easily. The disability may exist unnoticed while still negatively affecting the life of the individual. Therefore, it is significant to openly share about a learning disability. Many adults do tell their relatives and families about such issues. However, there are those that are afraid and not willing to speak about their learning impediments.

The employment prospects for adults with learning disabilities in Canada

It is evident that a learning disability is a major obstacle for people pursuing employment. In the United States, there are significant differences between the postsecondary education enrollment patterns of individuals with and without a learning disability. For instance, 40% of the general population attend a four-year college, while only 21% of people with learning disabilities can afford a Bachelor’s degree (Cortiella & Horowitz, 2014). In terms of financial opportunities, there is a substantial difference between the pay for a high school diploma and a Bachelor’s degree. Workers with a four-year college diploma earn 1066 dollars per week on average, whereas high school graduates earn only 621 dollars per week (Cortiella & Horowitz, 2014). The same observation can also be made in the Canadian job market.

Learning disabilities convert into issues with job opportunities in Canada. The reason is that more than 40% of individuals with a learning disability are forced to discontinue their education (Bizier et al., 2014). More than 60% of people with learning disabilities do not have jobs. Such a situation results in unfavorable financial outcomes and problems with mental and physical health. Many disabled individuals are discouraged from joining the workforce because of the insufficiency of their professional capacity and low education level.


Bizier, C., Till, M., & Nicholls, G. (2014). Learning disabilities among Canadians aged 15 years and older, 2012 [PDF document]. Canadian Survey on Disability, 2012.

Cortiella, C., & Horowitz, S.H. (2014). The state of learning disabilities: Facts, trends and emerging issues. National Center for Learning Disabilities.

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ChalkyPapers. "Societal Impact of Learning Disabilities." February 14, 2022.