Assessing Post-ADA Employment: Some Econometric Evidence and Policy Considerations
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
affiliation not provided to SSRN
October 10, 2008
Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Forthcoming
Yale Law & Economics Research Paper No. 358
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.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 63
Keywords: antidiscrimination law, employment, wages, disabled labor force, ADA
JEL Classification: C33, E24, I12, I18, J21, J71, K10, K31
Date posted: October 13, 2008 ; Last revised: January 8, 2012