Understanding the Recent Rise in Employment among People with Disabilities

This research study will investigate the causal role of four policies that represent especially promising potential explanations for the increase in the employment of people with disabilities: (1) the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which expanded access to public and private health insurance for PWD; (2) state investments in Home and Community Based Services, which make available essential services and supports that may enable employment by PWD; (3) changes in state vocational rehabilitation policies, intended to expand use of supported employment services and serve previously underrepresented disability groups; and (4) the 1619(b) work incentive program, which enables SSI recipients to maintain Medicaid coverage as their earnings rise.

Featured Research

Giuseppe Pagano, Nanette Goodman, and Pam Williamson
To investigate the impact of COVID-19 on disability employment, Ari Ne’eman and Nicole Maestas examined employment trends for people with and without disabilities over the course of the pandemic and during the economic recovery that followed using data from the Current Population Survey. To further unpack the issue, the authors examined these trends within particular types of occupations. They found that this employment growth was heavily concentrated in teleworkable, essential, and non-frontline occupations (which are overlapping categories), with the strongest gains in teleworkable occupations.
Nicole Maestas, Kathleen J. Mullen, and Alexander Strand
We examine the effect of cyclical job displacement during the Great Recession on the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. Exploiting variation in the severity and timing of the recession across states, we estimate the effect of unemployment on SSDI applications and awards. Our estimates imply the Great Recession increased claims processing costs by $2.960 billion during 2008-2012, and SSDI benefit obligations by $55.730 billion in present value, or $97.365 billion including both SSDI and Medicare benefits.
Nicole A. Maestas, Kathleen J. Mullen, and Stephanie Rennane
Labor force exit due to disability is often preceded by a gradual decline in health. Frequent or increased rates of absence from work or presenteeism (working while sick) could serve as a signal that a worker has begun transitioning out of the labor force. We analyze the relationship between absences, presenteeism and work outcomes using data from the American Working Conditions Survey and the American Life Panel.
Nicole A. Maestas
In their PNAS article “Decoding the mystery of American pain reveals a warning for the future,” Case et al. investigate an irregular feature of the relationship between pain and age in present-day America—midlife individuals report higher levels of pain than do the elderly. Ominously, this inverted age–pain profile exists only for individuals without a bachelor’s degree (BA) and in no wealthy country other than America.

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