Abstract: Employment and Earnings Disparities before and after the Implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act: An Intersectional Approach (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Employment and Earnings Disparities before and after the Implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act: An Intersectional Approach

Friday, January 13, 2023
Camelback B, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Margaret Holland, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Wyoming, WY
Background: Approximately 21 million people in the U.S. are working age (16 to 64 years old) and have a disability. However, only about one-fifth of people with disabilities are employed compared to over two-thirds of people without disabilities. Disparities in employment outcomes have been attributed to unique barriers faced by people with disabilities. Given these barriers, adults with disabilities have been included in several policies aimed at improving their employment outcomes (e.g., Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 [ADA]). While evaluations of such policies exist, almost no assessments have focused on the effect of these policies on specific disability, gender, and race subgroups. The current study addresses this knowledge gap by assessing the following research question: Has the ADA improved employment and earnings for all people, while considering their multiple and varying disability, gender, and race?

Methods: This study used nationally representative longitudinal cohort data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 to evaluate the simultaneous effects of disability, gender, and race on employment and earnings before and after the implementation of the ADA. First, linear and logistic regressions were used to assess the differences in number of weeks employed and amount of earnings based on subgroup membership. Next, difference-in-differences (DiD) models were run to compare each subgroup with a disability to its most similar subgroup without a disability (e.g., Black women with disabilities and Black women without disabilities).

Results: White men without disabilities had the highest odds of being employed (OR = .72; p < .001) and highest earnings (𝛽 = 6.04, p < .001) compared to all other subgroups. Black men with disabilities and Black women with disabilities had the lowest odds of being employed (OR = .06; p < .01 for both subgroups) and lowest earnings (𝛽 = -1.31, p < .001 and 𝛽 = -1.37, p < .001, respectively). In addition, most subgroups did not experience a consistent change in employment or earnings following the implementation of the ADA. However, White men with disabilities may have experienced a decrease in their number of weeks employed (β = -12.18, p < .001) and annual earnings (𝛽 = - .51, p = .04) compared to White men without disabilities because of the ADA. Further, Black women with disabilities may have experienced an increase in the number of weeks employed compared to Black women without disabilities (𝛽 = 17.00, p < .001) attributable to the ADA. In addition, Black men with disabilities may have experienced an increase in earnings compared to Black men without disabilities (𝛽 = 4.27, p < .001) due to the ADA. However, any improvements caused by the ADA were temporary and did not result in equitable earnings or employment between White workers with disabilities and Black workers with disabilities.

Conclusions and Implications: Findings demonstrate the need for policies that more equitably address the barriers to employment and earnings of people with disabilities. In particular, policies are needed that target the specific needs of Black workers with disabilities, and particularly Black women with disabilities.