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Does protecting older workers from discrimination make it harder to get hired? Evidence from disability discrimination laws. (Neumark et al. 2017)

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Neumark, D., Song, J., & Button, P. (2017). Does protecting older workers from discrimination make it harder to get hired? Evidence from disability discrimination laws. Research on Aging, 39(1), 29-63.

Highlights

  • The study examined the impact of the strength of state disability discrimination laws on hiring rates of older men.
  • The study used statistical models and data from the Health and Retirement Study and the Survey of Income and Program Participation to estimate the impacts.
  • The study found no relationship between the strength of disability discrimination laws and the hiring rate for older unemployed disabled and nondisabled men.
  • The quality of casual evidence presented in this report is low because the study is a nonexperimental analysis that did not demonstrate that the groups being compared were similar and did not account for possible differences in the analysis. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to state disability discrimination laws; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Intervention Examined

Disability discrimination laws

Features of the Study

The study used a series of regressions to compare the hiring rates of older unemployed men who lived in states with stronger disability discrimination laws with the rates of older unemployed men who lived in states with weaker disability discrimination laws. Analyses used data from the Health and Retirement Study’s 1992 to 2008 interview waves and the Survey of Income and Program Participation’s 1992, 1993, 1996, 2001, and 2004 panels. The authors included three characteristics of state disability discrimination laws: whether the laws use broader definitions of disability (broader is defined as medically diagnosed without regard to whether the impairment limits major life activities), whether the laws allow larger caps on punitive damages than the Americans with Disabilities Act, and whether the laws apply the act to firms with fewer with 10 employees. The study measured the impacts of the laws on various age groups, with separate analyses for disabled and nondisabled unemployed men.

Findings

Employment

  • The study found mixed evidence on the association between state disability discrimination laws and hiring rates for disabled and nondisabled older men.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The study is a nonexperimental analysis that did not demonstrate that the groups being compared were similar and did not account for possible differences between the groups. In addition, some analyses did not account for other state characteristics, which might explain the association between state discrimination laws and employment. For the difference-in-difference models, the trends in hiring by age across different state disability laws are not similar. Further, the authors estimated multiple related impacts on outcomes related to employment. Performing multiple statistical tests on related outcomes makes it more likely that some impacts will be found statistically significant purely by chance and not because they reflect program effectiveness. The authors did not perform statistical adjustments to account for the multiple tests, so the number of statistically significant findings in these domains is likely to be overstated.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the study did not demonstrate that the groups were similar or account for possible differences between the groups. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the strength of state disability discrimination laws; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

October 2019

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