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Assessing Post-ADA Employment: Some Econometric Evidence and Policy Considerations

Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Forthcoming

Yale Law & Economics Research Paper No. 358

63 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2008 Last revised: 8 Jan 2012

John J. Donohue III

Stanford Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Michael Ashley Stein

Visiting Professor, Harvard Law School; University of Pretoria Faculty of Law, Centre for Human Rights

Christopher L. Griffin Jr.

Harvard Law School

Sascha Becker

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: October 10, 2008

Abstract

In this article, we offer innovative analysis and additional evidence on the relationship between the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the relative labor market outcomes for people with disabilities, the very class protected by its landmark provisions. Using individual-level longitudinal data from 1981 to 1996 derived from the previously unexploited Panel Study of Income Dynamics ("PSID"), we examine the possible effect of the ADA on (1) annual weeks worked; (2) annual earnings; and (3) hourly wages for a sample of 7120 unique male household heads between the ages of 21 and 65 as well as a subset of 1147 individuals appearing every year from 1981 to 1996. Our analysis of the larger sample suggests the ADA had a negative impact on the employment levels of disabled persons relative to non-disabled persons but no impact on relative earnings. However, our evaluation of the restricted sample raises questions about these findings. Using these data, we find little evidence of adverse effects on weeks worked but strong evidence of wage declines for the disabled, albeit declines beginning in 1986, well before the ADA's passage. These results therefore cast doubt on the adverse ADA-related impacts found in previous studies, particularly Acemoglu and Angrist (2001). The conflicting narratives that emerge from our analysis shed new light on, but also counsel caution in reaching final conclusions about, the impact of the ADA on employment outcomes for people with disabilities.

Keywords: antidiscrimination law, employment, wages, disabled labor force, ADA

JEL Classification: C33, E24, I12, I18, J21, J71, K10, K31

Suggested Citation

Donohue, John J. and Stein, Michael Ashley and Griffin, Christopher L. and Becker, Sascha, Assessing Post-ADA Employment: Some Econometric Evidence and Policy Considerations (October 10, 2008). Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Forthcoming; Yale Law & Economics Research Paper No. 358. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1282307

John J. Donohue III

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States
650-575-7166 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Michael Ashley Stein

Visiting Professor, Harvard Law School ( email )

1585 Massachussetts Avenue
Austin Hall 305
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-1726 (Phone)

University of Pretoria Faculty of Law, Centre for Human Rights ( email )

Private Bag X20
Hatfield 0028
Pretoria
South Africa

Sascha Becker

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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