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The outcomes of policies designed to eliminate discrimination (Choe 2008)

Citation

Choe, C. (2008). The outcomes of policies designed to eliminate discrimination (Doctoral dissertation). University of Arizona.

Highlights

    • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 on the employment and wages of men with disabilities relative to men without disabilities.
    • The study used data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) from 1984, 1990, 1996, and 2001. The analysis attempted to determine how much of the difference in wages between men with and without disabilities was explained by background characteristics and how much was not; the portion that was not was interpreted as the effect of discrimination.
    • The study found that neither the employment nor wages of men with disabilities improved relative to men without disabilities following passage of the ADA. Instead, employment and wage differentials both increased. However, the unexplained portion of the wage gap narrowed significantly after the ADA, consistent with a decrease in discrimination, among other explanations.
    • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not establish the comparability of men with and without disabilities before passage of the ADA. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the ADA. Other factors are likely to have contributed.

Intervention Examined

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

Features of the Intervention

The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. Enacted in July 1990 and first implemented in January 1992, the law bars employers from discriminating against people with disabilities in all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, wages, and training. The legislation also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to help employees with disabilities complete the functions of their jobs, provided the accommodations do not impose undue hardship on the employer. Reasonable accommodations may include adjusting work schedules or equipment, providing qualified readers or interpreters, or modifying facilities to improve accessibility. When the ADA first went into effect in 1992, it applied to government employers and private employers with 25 or more employees; an addendum in 1994 extended coverage to private employers with 15 or more employees.

Features of the Study

The author examined the impact of the ADA on the employment and hourly wages of men with disabilities ages 18 to 25 using SIPP data from 1984, 1990, 1996, and 2001. The analysis attempted to determine how much of the difference in wages between men with and without disabilities was explained by background characteristics and how much was not; the portion that was not was interpreted as the effect of discrimination. Background characteristics included demographic, human capital, family, and socioeconomic characteristics, as well as self-reported health status. The procedure adjusted for the selection of men with disabilities into employment. This analysis was conducted for each year of data to assess changes in the unexplained portion of the employment and hourly wage gaps between men with and without disabilities before and after passage of the ADA.

Findings

    • Before passage of the ADA, the gap in employment rates between men with and without disabilities increased 45 percent (from 20.8 to 30.2 percent) and the gap in log hourly wages increased 78 percent (from 3.7 to 6.6 percent).
    • Following passage and implementation of the ADA, there was no improvement in either employment or wage levels for men with disabilities, and the gap in employment rates and log hourly wages between men with and without disabilities increased. The study found that most of the increase in the gap was due to an increase in the portion of the gap that can be explained by background characteristics.
    • The portion of the wage gap between men with and without disabilities that could not be explained by background characteristics narrowed significantly after passage of the ADA. This might have been due to a decrease in discrimination, provided that unmeasured factors such as productivity did not change during this period.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The study did not examine or control for different pre-intervention trends in labor market outcomes among men with and without disabilities. Thus, the findings might reflect pre-existing differences in the levels and trends of employment rates and earnings of men with and without disabilities before passage of the ADA; these differences could influence employment and wages even in the absence of the ADA.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not establish the comparability of men with and without disabilities before passage of the ADA. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the ADA. Other factors are likely to have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

December 2015

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