The Disability Employment Puzzle: A Field Experiment on Employer Hiring Behavior

72 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2015 Last revised: 29 Sep 2015

See all articles by Mason Ameri

Mason Ameri

Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations - New Brunswick

Lisa Schur

Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations - New Brunswick

Meera Adya

Syracuse University

Scott Bentley

Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations - New Brunswick

Patrick McKay

Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations - New Brunswick

Douglas L. Kruse

Rutgers University

Date Written: September 2015

Abstract

People with disabilities have low employment and wage levels, and some studies suggest employer discrimination is a contributing factor. Following the method of Bertrand and Mullainathan (2003), new evidence is presented from a field experiment that sent applications in response to 6,016 advertised accounting positions from well-qualified fictional applicants, with one-third of cover letters disclosing that the applicant has a spinal cord injury, one-third disclosing the presence of Asperger’s Syndrome, and one-third not mentioning disability. These specific disabilities were chosen because they would not be expected to limit productivity in accounting, helping rule out productivity-based explanations for any differences in employer responses. Half of the resumes portrayed a novice accountant, and half portrayed an experienced one. The fictional applicants with disabilities received 26% fewer expressions of employer interest than those without disabilities, with little difference between the two types of disability. The disability gap was concentrated among more experienced applicants, and among private companies with fewer than 15 employees that are not covered by the ADA, although comparable state statutes cover about half of them. Comparisons above and below disability law coverage thresholds point to a possible positive effect of the ADA on employer responses to applicants with disabilities, but no clear effects of state laws. The overall pattern of findings is consistent with the idea that disability discrimination continues to impede employment prospects of people with disabilities, and more attention needs to be paid to employer behavior and the demand side of the labor market for people with disabilities.

Suggested Citation

Ameri, Mason and Schur, Lisa and Adya, Meera and Bentley, Scott and McKay, Patrick and Kruse, Douglas L., The Disability Employment Puzzle: A Field Experiment on Employer Hiring Behavior (September 2015). NBER Working Paper No. w21560. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2663198

Mason Ameri (Contact Author)

Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations - New Brunswick ( email )

Piscataway, NJ 08854
United States

Lisa Schur

Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations - New Brunswick ( email )

Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relatio
50 Labor Center Way
Piscataway, NJ 08854
United States
732-932-1743 (Phone)

Meera Adya

Syracuse University ( email )

900 S. Crouse Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2130
United States

Scott Bentley

Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations - New Brunswick ( email )

Piscataway, NJ 08854
United States

Patrick McKay

Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations - New Brunswick ( email )

Piscataway, NJ 08854
United States

Douglas L. Kruse

Rutgers University ( email )

Piscataway, NJ 08854
United States
908-445-5991 (Phone)
908-445-2830 (Fax)

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