The Employment of Working-Age People with Disabilities in the 1980s and 1990s: What Current Data Can and Cannot Tell Us

FRB of San Francisco Working Paper No. 2001-20

43 Pages Posted: 10 May 2005

See all articles by Richard V. Burkhauser

Richard V. Burkhauser

Cornell University - Department of Policy Analysis & Management (PAM); University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute

Mary C. Daly

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

Andrew J. Houtenville

University of New Hampshire - Whittemore School of Business and Economics

Nigar Nargis

Cornell University - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: November 2001

Abstract

A new and highly controversial literature argues that the employment of working-age people with disabilities fell dramatically relative to the rest of the working-age population in the 1990s. Some dismiss these results as fundamentally flawed because they come from a self-reported work limitation-based disability population that captures neither the actual population with disabilities nor its employment trends. In this paper, we examine the merits of these criticisms. We first consider some of the difficulties of defining and consistently measuring the population with disabilities. We then discuss how these measurement difficulties potentially bias empirical estimates of the prevalence of disability and of the employment behavior of those with disabilities. Having provided a context for our analysis, we use data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) to compare the prevalence and employment rates across two empirical populations of those with disabilities: one defined by self-reported impairments and one defined by self-reported work limitations. We find that although traditional work limitation-based definitions underestimate the size of the broader population with health impairments, the employment trends in the populations defined by work limitations and impairments are not significantly different from one another over the 1980s and 1990s. We then show that the trends in employment observed for the NHIS population defined by self-reported work limitations are statistically similar to those found in the Current Population Survey (CPS). Based on this analysis, we argue that nationally representative employment-based data sets like the CPS can be used to monitor the employment trends of those with disabilities over the past two decades.

Keywords: Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Labor supply, National Health Interview Survey

Suggested Citation

Burkhauser, Richard V. and Daly, Mary Colleen and Houtenville, Andrew J. and Nargis, Nigar, The Employment of Working-Age People with Disabilities in the 1980s and 1990s: What Current Data Can and Cannot Tell Us (November 2001). FRB of San Francisco Working Paper No. 2001-20, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=721062 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.721062

Richard V. Burkhauser (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Department of Policy Analysis & Management (PAM) ( email )

120 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute ( email )

Level 5, FBE Building, 111 Barry Street
161 Barry Street
Carlton, VIC 3053
Australia

Mary Colleen Daly

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco ( email )

101 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
United States

Andrew J. Houtenville

University of New Hampshire - Whittemore School of Business and Economics ( email )

15 College Road
Durham, NH 03824
United States

Nigar Nargis

Cornell University - Department of Economics ( email )

414 Uris Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-7601
United States
607-255-8078 (Phone)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
77
Abstract Views
1,096
rank
342,782
PlumX Metrics