Conclusions and Policy Implications
This book has examined and documented the relative labor market experience of workers with disabilities with an eye to evaluating the impact of the ADA. A worker's labor market experience goes beyond simply whether a person has a job and what he or she is being paid. While these dimensions are fundamental, the quality or characteristics of the worker's job, the process of obtaining it, and the nature of job separation are also important factors. One intention of the ADA is to break down barriers in the labor market; thus the focus of all analyses in this book is on the experience of the disabled in that environment, not on factors that influence decisions to enter the labor market. Accounting for those choices, however, is important in obtaining results generalizable to the disabled population, so measures are taken, where appropriate, to control for the decision to seek employment. In addition to the multiple dimensions of the potential impact of the ADA on disabled Americans in the labor market, there are at least as many more ways in which the ADA affects the lives of all disabled Americans; such issues are not the subject of this work, but they may in fact amount to a much greater overall effect than that experienced by disabled workers alone.
Overall, the analyses presented here lead to the conclusion that the labor market experience of disabled workers is quantitatively lower in all dimensions than that of nondisabled workers. In addition, while this relative situation has improved over time in some ways, there is no strong evidence that it has been substantively impacted by the ADA. There are two primary reasons why the ADA may not have had the hoped-for dramatic effect. It could be the case that no one is paying attention to the legislation. In other words, employers may not be complying (either through lack of awareness or refusal) with the mandates of the ADA, workers may not be aware of their rights under the law, or workers may not be pursuing these rights. Alternatively, it may be the case that the bulk of the experience of disabled workers in the labor market is being defined by factors other than those corrected for by the ADA.