Abstract: Cognitive Disability Status and Crime Victimization: Results from the 2020 National Crime Victimization Survey (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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245P Cognitive Disability Status and Crime Victimization: Results from the 2020 National Crime Victimization Survey

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Megan Westmore, LMSW, PhD Student and Graduate Research Assistant, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington

Approximately 61 million US adults (26%) live with one or more disabilities. Among this group, 11% have cognitive disabilities. Research demonstrates people with disabilities, and especially those with cognitive disabilities, are disproportionately impacted by a variety of crimes. Being a crime victim leads to an array of emotional, behavioral, and physical consequences, some of which may be long lasting. This study analyzes the 2020 National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) to determine if respondents with cognitive disabilities have a higher likelihood of repeated crime victimization.


The sampling frame is the incident-level extract file of the 2020 NCVS. To maximize cases while getting an appropriate sample size for regression, a random 65% sample was created (N = 4,847).

Cognitive disability was measured with one yes/no item that asked, “Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition, do you have serious difficulty: concentrating, remembering, or making decisions?” The dependent variable was computed by adding the number of crime incidents (CIs) reported for the preceding six months. This outcome ranges from one to twelve. Negative binomial logistic regression was completed to evaluate the association between cognitive disability status and likelihood of experiencing more CIs while controlling for respondent sex, age, income, education, sexual orientation, race, Hispanic ethnicity, and marital status.


The average number of CIs experienced was about two (M=1.70, SD=1.32, Range=1-12). About 65% of the sample had experienced one CI, 20% had experienced two, and 16% had experienced three or more. About 9% had a cognitive disability.

Results from the negative binomial logistic regression showed the overall model was significant (χ2(11)=241.26, p<.001). Having a cognitive disability is associated with a 41.1% increased likelihood of experiencing more CIs (IRR=1.41, p<.001). Being female is associated with a 11.1% increased likelihood of experiencing more CIs (IRR=1.11, p<.001). As compared to those with a college degree: having less than high school education is associated with a 16.6% increased likelihood of experiencing more CIs (IRR=1.17, p<.001); having a high school degree is associated with a 14.6% increased likelihood of experiencing more CIs (IRR=1.15, p<.001); and having some college is associated with a 9.7% increased likelihood of experiencing more CIs (IRR=1.10, p=.002). As compared to being white, being nonwhite is associated with an 8.9% increased likelihood of experiencing more CIs (IRR=1.09, p=.002).

Age and household income had very small, statistically significant negative relationships with the dependent variable. Sexual orientation, Hispanic ethnicity, and marital status were not statistically significantly associated with experiencing more CIs.


This study demonstrated that in 2020, individuals with cognitive disabilities were 41% more likely to experience multiple CIs. Other populations at higher risk include those with lower education levels, people of color, and women. Crime prevention efforts should be better targeted to individuals with cognitive disabilities, such as by using accessible materials and conducting outreach in group homes for people with cognitive disabilities. In addition, crime services professionals should be prepared to work with victims with cognitive disabilities.