The Decline in Employment of People with Disabilities: A Policy Puzzle

The Decline in Employment of People with Disabilities: A Policy Puzzle

The Decline in Employment of People with Disabilities: A Policy Puzzle

The Decline in Employment of People with Disabilities: A Policy Puzzle

Synopsis

This volume reports on the employment decline of working-age people with disabilities. The contributors provide documentation of the decline, an evaluation of its conflicting causes, and the implications for public policy.

Excerpt

A major debate has begun over reports of an unprecedented decline in the employment rate of working-aged people with disabilities during the 1990s business cycle (1989–2000) by those using currently available data sources to track the employment and economic well-being of the U.S. population. the debate is occurring at two overlapping levels. the first is over the quality of the data, with some calling on the federal government to end its financial support for disseminating employment estimates for people with disabilities using currently available data (National Council on Disability 2002). Others argue that although the current data are usable within certain limits, the major findings on employment using these data are quite sensitive to the definitions used to capture the “relevant” population with disabilities, and have been used in a way that understates the employment success of public policies such as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). the second level of debate is over the specific causes of the decline found in the data. Researchers have made conflicting judgments over the relative importance of health and the social environment, especially public policies, in explaining this decline.

In the background of the academic debate over these issues are the concerns of policymakers, disability advocates, and people with disabilities over the success of their efforts to better integrate workingaged people with disabilities into the workforce, increase their employment, and reduce their dependence on disability-based income support programs. There is especially concern that the ADA—the centerpiece of the political movement to increase labor market access of people with disabilities—will be unfairly judged a failure based on partial and inappropriate measures of its success.

In October 2001, Cornell University’s Rehabilitation Research and Training Center for Economic Research on Employment Policy for . . .

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