Related BLS programs | Related articles
November 2008, Vol. 131, No. 11
The employment rate of people with disabilities
Burt S. Barnow
Promoting employment for people with disabilities has long been an important policy objective in the United States. Some examples of Federal policies whose goal is to increase employment for people with disabilities are the vocational rehabilitation system, funded by grants from the U.S. Rehabilitation Services Administration to the States; the Ticket to Work program; the Work Opportunity Tax Credit; and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Many of these policies are relatively new; yet analysts have noted a decline in the employment rate of people with disabilities in recent years,1 and some evaluations of the ADA indicate that, rather than increasing employment, the Act may have reduced employment for those with disabilities. These surprising findings have led some observers to take a closer look at employment statistics for such individuals. Perhaps, they argue, it is not that the programs and policies have failed to aid disabled individuals in finding employment; rather, the statistics themselves are misleading and inappropriate.
This article examines three issues that are critical in assessing the success of employment policies for the disabled: the measurement of employment status, the measurement of disability status, and the decision regarding whom to include in the analyses. Because the empirical studies reviewed herein made use of three specific surveys—the 2000 Decennial Census, the Current Population Survey (CPS), and the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP)—the focus of the article is the definitions and measurement of employment and disability status in those three surveys. The measurement of employment status has not been an issue of dispute in the literature, so it is discussed first. Next, the definitions of disability status are examined, followed by a review of the definitions used and analyses undertaken in evaluations of the ADA. The article concludes with suggestions about future research on measuring disability status.
This excerpt is from an article published in the November 2008 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
Read abstract Download full article in PDF (153K)
1 On October 24, 2007, the U.S. Department of Labor published final regulations (72 Federal Register 60452, October 24, 2007) related to the default investment of retirement plan assets. These regulations, which result from provisions of the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (Public Law 109–280), are codified in 29 Code of Federal Regulations 2550.404c–5.
Related BLS programs
Current Population Survey (Labor Force Statistics)
Disability and the characteristics of employment—May 2003.
Lack of a disability measure in today's Current Population Survey, The.—Jun. 2001.
Persons with disabilities: Labor market activity, 1994.—Sep. 1998.
Labor force trends of persons with and without disabilities.—Oct. 1994.
Within Monthly Labor Review Online:
Welcome | Current Issue | Index | Subscribe | Archives
Exit Monthly Labor Review Online:
BLS Home | Publications & Research Papers