Declining employment of persons with disabilities

November 13, 2003

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Although U.S. employment rates rose over the growth years of the 1990s for most working-age Americans, people with disabilities experienced an unprecedented fall in their employment rates. The employment rates of men with disabilities fell by 23 percent between 1992 and 2000, for women with disabilities, they fell by 5 percent.

Two Cornell University economists and experts in disability policy have co-edited a new book, The Decline in Employment of People with Disabilities: A Policy Puzzle (W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, 2003, 448 pages), to explore and evaluate the possible causes of this widening disparity in employment between working-age people with disabilities and all other working-age Americans.

David C. Stapleton, director of the Cornell Center for Policy Research, and Richard V. Burkhauser, professor and chair of Cornell's Department of Policy Analysis and Management, conclude that changes in the social environment are responsible for this unprecedented decline in employment during a period of strong economic growth, rather than changes in the underlying health of working-age people with disabilities. These changes in the social environment include public policies that have made it less rewarding for those with disabilities to seek employment and more costly for employers to hire them.

"Given the robust economic expansion of the 1990s and the promise of greater independence that is embodied in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), this decline in employment and its influence on household income is a disaster for the working-aged population with disabilities," says Burkhauser. "Hence, it is not surprising that this decline in measured employment has generated a major debate."

Intended for researchers, policy-makers, advocacy groups and communities of the disabled, the book first documents the employment-rate decline, showing that the downward trend is real and not a statistical artifact. It explores the arguments that the root cause of the unemployment trend is an increasing severity of disabilities, more lenient eligibility standards and increases in the relative benefits of Social Security disability programs (SSI and SSDI), and an unintended consequence of the passage and implementation of the ADA.
Related World Wide Web sites: The following sites provide additional information on this news release. Some might not be part of the Cornell University community, and Cornell has no control over their content or availability. o David Stapleton

o Richard Burkhauser

o Information about the book from the publisher, including a link to the introductory chapter

Cornell University

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