Project 1. Understanding the Recent Rise in Employment among People with Disabilities

  • This project seeks to understand which specific policies have contributed to recent, unprecedented gains in employment among people with disabilities.
    • This question takes on even greater importance as the global economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has the potential to roll back these extraordinary gains in economic participation among people with disabilities.
    • It is critical to investigate why this occurred, what types of policies helped or hindered, and extract policy lessons for the future.
    • During the recent economic expansion, there was a sharp and surprising increase in the number of people exiting the SSDI program because of successful return to work.
    • During the same time period, national survey data recorded a sustained increase in the employment rate of people with disabilities—the first such increase to occur after decades of decline.
    • We will investigate 1) the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which expanded access to both public and private health insurance; 2) state investments in Home and Community Based Services, which make available essential services and supports that may enable employment; 3) changes in state vocational rehabilitation policies, which were intended to expand the 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.
    • Because these policies have not occurred in a vacuum, but rather they have played out against a background of economic expansion and structural change in the U.S. labor market, we will also consider the effects of each policy accounting for and exploring interactions with labor demand conditions across regional labor markets.