Disability Inclusive Employment Policy Rehabilitation Research and Training Center Newsletter
September 2022 – Issue 7
Welcome to the seventh issue of the Disability Inclusive Employment Policy RRTC Newsletter.
Today’s unprecedented health, social, and economic challenges raised by the coronavirus pandemic require a retrospective, present-day, and prospective view of U.S. employment policy for individuals with disabilities. Over the next four years, the goal of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on “Disability Inclusive Employment Policy” (DIEP) will be to design and implement a series of studies that produce new data and evidence on policy levers to increase employment rates of persons with disabilities with the objective of informing current and future policy and program development. This project is a collaboration between Syracuse, Harvard, and Rutgers universities.
A large body of quantitative and qualitative research has established a strong connection between disability and poor labor market outcomes. People with disabilities, on average, are less likely to be employed and have lower wages when employed. However, often neglected is the huge diversity of the population of disabilities and how that diversity interacts with their labor market experiences. Types and degrees of disability have differing impacts on employment. Gender, race, and other characteristics are also of fundamental importance as we address the impact on employment. Studies have shown, for example, that the impacts of race and disability on employment outcomes are not simply additive, but have intersectional effects that not only compound the barriers that people face, but change the lived experience of searching for, obtaining, and benefitting from employment.
Data from the 2020 American Community Survey indicates that employment rates vary not only by disability status but also by race and gender (Table below). Among working-age individuals with disabilities (ages 18-64), only 36% of women and 38% of men were employed compared with 71% of women and 79% of men without disabilities. Non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics with and without disabilities had the highest employment rates relative to other races and ethnicities.
These disparities call for approaches to research and policy that consider the differential impacts of the pandemic and employment policies on people with disabilities from marginalized populations. DIEP researchers have conducted several studies that begin to unravel these disparities.
Precarious Work: A recent study by Schur and Kruse (2021) shows that workers with disabilities are more likely than those without disabilities to be in precarious jobs meaning they are more likely to be in jobs that are insecure or unprotected such as temporary or contract work. Among employed people with disabilities, Black women, Black men, and Hispanic men are more likely to engage in precarious work. Kruse and Schur argue that precarious work represents a double-edged sword for people with disabilities. While some might choose it due to the flexibility it provides, others resort to precarious jobs as they face discrimination in obtaining standard jobs. Being employed in a precarious job is associated with less security, lower pay and benefits, little or no training and opportunities for advancement, and few, if any, worker protections. As such, expectedly, the disability pay gap is higher in precarious jobs than in full-time permanent jobs. For more information read the Disability and Precarious Work abstract.
The Disparate Effects of COVID-19 on Employment: Informed by recent calls for intersectional approaches in labor research, Schur, van der Meulen Rodgers, and Kruse studied the disparate effects of COVID-19 on workers with disabilities from marginalized groups. Their results show that White and Black women with disabilities experienced relatively greater employment losses during the pandemic compared to White men without disabilities. In addition, their results highlight the importance of considering occupational differences when discussing employment inequalities. The disability employment gap increased during the pandemic, and a substantial portion of the increased gap is explained by differential effects of the pandemic across occupations. Nonetheless, a portion of the employment gap was not explained by observed characteristics such as the ones discussed above. This may reflect the growing discrimination that people with disabilities experience in employment, especially those embodying multiple-marginalized identities. View Publication, COVID-19 and Employment Losses for Workers with Disabilities: An Intersectional Approach
Workplace Experiences: A series of studies on legal professionals conducted by DIEP researchers, Hyseni, Blanck, and Wise, explored workplace experiences such as disclosure, discrimination, and accommodations through an intersectional lens. The findings from these studies show that among workers with disabilities, those embodying other marginalized identities, such as women and older attorneys, are less likely to disclose their disabilities. The likelihood of disclosure increased if employees perceived their workplace as supportive. Likewise, when it comes to experiences of discrimination, multiply marginalized attorneys were more likely to report subtle and overt discrimination. Thus, expectedly, these studies observed disparities in accommodation requests and granting. While multiply marginalized people with disabilities were more likely to request accommodations, they were less likely to receive them. Read the abstracts on accommodations, disclosure, and discrimination.
COVID and SSDI: DIEP researcher Nicole Maestas with her co-author Kathleen Mullen released research findings exploring the relationship between the COVID-19 recession and applications for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). In prior recessions, SSDI applications increased. However, this increase did not happen during the COVID recession. Why did this recession have a different impact on SSDI than prior recessions?
The researchers suggest that the closure of SSA field offices may have made it more difficult for people to apply for benefits. At the same time, the expansion of unemployment insurance and other government support programs may have enabled people to weather the downturn and avoid applying for SSDI benefits.
They conclude that “although it is unlikely that there is a substantial amount of pent-up demand for SSDI benefits among workers who were displaced during the COVID recession, there could yet be a steady inflow of applications in the future from people experiencing disabling effects from Long COVID.”
DISCLAIMER The contents of this newsletter were developed under a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant number 90RTEM0006). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this website do not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, or HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.”
About BBI The Burton Blatt Institute (“BBI”) at Syracuse University reaches around the globe in its efforts to advance the civic, economic, and social participation of people with disabilities. Through program development, research, and public policy guidance, BBI advances the full inclusion of people with disabilities. BBI builds on the legacy of Burton Blatt, a pioneering disability rights scholar. BBI has offices in Syracuse, NY; Washington, DC; Atlanta, GA; New York City, NY; and Lexington, KY. Learn More about BBI