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September 1998, Vol. 121, No. 9
Thomas W. Hale, Howard V. Hayghe, and John M. McNeil
According to the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP),1 only 29.5 percent of persons aged 20 to 64 years with severe disabilities participated in labor market activitythat is, they either had worked, had looked for work, or were on layoff from a jobduring the month before the survey was administered. (See table 1.) This proportion was far below that for persons in the same age group with no disabilities (84.5 percent) and for those with moderate disabilities (81.6 percent).2 This pattern of similar market activity rates between those with moderate and those with no disabilities, contrasted with sharply lower rates for those with severe disabilities, appears across many major demographic groups. The relative severity of the disability probably explains much of this difference, but other factorsnotably, age and educationalso may have some impact. (See box on pages 1112 for disability statuses.)
Persons with severe disabilities tend to be older, on average, than the other two groups, and, of course, older people are less likely to be active in the labor market than are younger ones. Among persons aged 20 to 64 with severe disabilities, almost one-third were 55 to 64 years old. This figure compares with only about 10 percent of persons with no disabilities and 20 percent of persons with moderate disabilities. The implication is that a significant proportion of those with severe disabilities are in an age group in which many people have already retired. Nonetheless, when the labor market activity rate of persons with no disabilities is compared, age for age, with the rates of those with moderate and those with severe disabilities, it becomes clear that the last group consistently has lower rates than the other two groups.
Education, too, is another factor that is well known to affect labor force activity. People with lower educational attainment generally do not do as well as their better educated counterparts in regard to employment, unemployment, and earnings. Among persons 25 to 64 years old, those with severe disabilities are about 3 times as likely as those with no disabilities to have left school before completing high school and less than a third as likely to have completed 4 years of college. As with age, though, when labor market activity is compared across educational levels for the three disability status groups, those with severe disabilities consistently have significantly lower rates than the other two groups.
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1 The Survey of Income and Program Participation is a household survey sponsored by the Bureau of the Census and is designed to help meet the statistical needs of many Federal agencies. SIPP collects core data on employment, on income, and on participation in certain Federal Government programs (primarily means-tested programs, such as the food stamp program, the Women, Infant, and Childrens (WIC) supplemental nutrition program, and the Supplementary Social Insurance (SSI) and other cash assistance, Medicaid, and housing assistance programs). It also collects periodic data on characteristics, such as disability, that are relevant to ones eligibility for, and status in, such programs. (See box, pages 1112, for the kind of information that is used to identify persons with disabilities.) The data in this article are based on information collected by SIPP between October 1994 and January 1995.
SIPP began in October 1983, with the collection of data for the 1984 panel. Households in a SIPP panel (containing 20,000 households) are visited every 4 months and are asked core questions about their status during the previous 4 months. The original survey design called for eight interviews at 4-month intervals for households in a given panel. The original design was modified for some panels, largely because of budgetary problems. New panels were introduced each year, so that at any given time, beginning with the introduction of the 1985 panel, data collection would be ongoing for more than one panel. This overlap feature meant that cross-sectional estimates could be based on two panels instead of one. The introduction of the 1996 panel marked a major change in the design of SIPP. The new design is intended to enhance the value of the survey for longitudinal analysis and calls for 12 visits at 4-month intervals with a panel of approximately 37,000 households. The new design does not include an overlap feature; the next scheduled panel will begin in the year 2000.
For additional information about the SIPP, visit the Web site <http://www.sipp.census.gov/sipp/>. Readers may also wish to see Constance F. Citro and Graham Kalton, eds., The Future of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (Washington, DC, National Academy Press, 1993). The Bureau of the Census has published two reports using disability data from SIPP: Americans with Disabilities: 199192, Series P7033; and Americans with Disabilities: 199495, Series P7061. SIPP disability data are also available at the Web site <http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/disable.html>.
2 The striking similarity in the labor market activity rates between persons with no disabilities and those with moderate disabilities is difficult to interpret, because those who are classified as having moderate disabilities include all individuals with disabilities who have not been determined to have a severe disability. It is likely, therefore, that the group with moderate disabilities ranges from persons with virtually no disabilities to those with disabilities that are close to severe.
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