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October 1994, Vol. 117, No. 10
Labor force trends of persons with and without disabilities
Edward H. Yelin and Patricia P. Katz
Employment trends from 1970 to 1992 indicate that the labor force participation of persons with disabilities is tied to overall labor market dynamics, in both the long and the short term. In the long term, a decline in the labor force participation of men over the period—particularly older men—was more pronounced among men with disabilities. By contrast, an increase in the labor force participation of women during the same period—especially younger women—benefited women with disabilities. In the short term, persons with disabilities experienced proportionally larger gains during periods of labor market expansion than did those without disabilities, but suffered proportionally greater losses during times of contraction than did their able-bodied counterparts.
Except for the fact that rates of entitlement to Social Security Disability Insurance and other forms of disability—related compensation provide an imperfect measure of the labor force participation of persons with disabilities, little is known about the employment dynamics of these individuals. This is so in part because not all who are eligible for benefits on medical grounds apply for them1 and in part because those who do apply but who fail to become beneficiaries do not necessarily go back to work.2Likewise, measures of the activities in which a person is limited are not sufficient, because health is only one among many factors affecting the person's labor force participations.3
In two journal articles, Robert Haveman and Barbara Wolfe used data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) to report trends in the prevalence and economic well-being of persons with disabilities from 1962 through 1984.4 These authors showed that such individuals had falling labor force participation rates during the 1980's. Their reduced earnings were buffered by transfer payments through 1980, but changes in disability compensation programs in the early 1980's reduced the size, and hence effect, of this buffer. Robert Bennefield and John McNeil also analyzed data from the CPS, for the period 1981 through 1988, and showed that there was a downward trend in labor force participation rates among men with disabilities and an upward trend among women with disabilities.5
In a similar vein to these works, this article describes trends in the participation of persons with and without disabilities in the 23 years culminating in 1992, a period preceding the energy crises of the 1970's and encompassing several complete economic cycles. The article then demonstrates that these trends are tied both to the rising participation of women in the labor market and to short-term fluctuations due to economic cycles.
This excerpt is from an article published in the October 1994 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 See "Population Profile of Disability," report by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., to the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, October 1989, especially p. 21.
2 See Ralph Treivel, "Recovery of Disabled Beneficiaries: A 1975 Followup Study of 1972 Allowances," Social Security Bulletin, April 197, pp. 3-23; and John Bound, "The Health and Earnings of Rejected Disability Insurance Applicants," American Economic Review, December 1989, pp. 482-503.
3 See Saad Nagi, "An Epidemiology of Disability in the U./S.," Millbank Quartile, Vol. 54, 1976, pp. 439-68; Edward Yelin, Michael; Nevitt, and Wallace Epstein, "Toward an Epidemiology of Work Disability," Milbank Quartile, Vol. 58, 1980, pp. 386-415; and Richard Burkhauser and Mary Daly, "The Economic Consequences of Disability: A Comparison of German and American People with Disabilities," Journal of Disability Policy Studies, in press.
4 Robert Havemane and Barbara Wolfe, "The Economic Well-being of the Disabled," Journal of Human Resources, Vol. 25, 1990, pp. 32-54; and Barbara Wolfe and Robert Haveman, "Trends in the Prevalence of Work Disability from 1962-1984," Milbank Quartile, Vol. 68, 1990, pp. 53-80.
5 Robert Bennefeld and John McNeil, "Labor Force Status and Other Characteristics of Persons with a Work Disability: 1981 to 1988,"Current Population Reports, series P-23, No. 160, 198.
Developing employment policies for persons with disabilities. October 1992.
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