The Economics of Disability: Volume 13


Table of contents

(11 chapters)

Labor-market discrimination measures are usually derived from between-group comparisons of market outcomes for favored versus disfavored groups, controlling for productivity-related individual characteristics. When the disfavored group is heterogeneous, one can relate variations in discrimination intensity to market outcomes within the disfavored group. We use this approach to test for employment and wage discrimination against persons with various types of disabilities. Measures of ‘social distance” and employer judgments of “employability” are controls for the intensity of discrimination. In a national sample of adults with serious disabilities, employment discrimination effects are in the “wrong” direction, however, and wage effects are unstable. Thus, variability in labor market outcomes among different types of disabilities is not explained well by variations in discrimination intensity correlated with social distance and employer attitudes. We conjecture that differences in available support services by type of disability may help to explain this variability.

In this paper, we provide an assessment of the intertemporal economic well-being of a representative sample of females who became new Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries in 1982. We compare their economic circumstances over the 1982 to 1991 period with those of both disabled men who became new SSDI beneficiaries in 1982, and a matched sample of nondisabled females who had sufficient work experience for benefit eligibility should they have become disabled. In 1982, the new SSDI women beneficiaries were a relatively poor segment of U.S. society. One quarter of them lived in poverty, and 48 percent had incomes below 150 percent of the poverty line. Over the subsequent decade, some of those married in 1982 lost husbands and the income contributed by their husbands. Yet, as of 1991, over one half of these disabled women lived in families with income below 150 percent of the poverty line. Social Security benefits to disabled women have played an important, and growing, role in sustaining economic status. Nevertheless, the level of well-being of these women lies substantially below that of the comparison groups, and for some groups of the women, well-being trends were negative both absolutely and relative to the comparison groups. We statistically relate the poverty status of these new female recipients to sociodemographic factors that would be expected to contribute to low well-being, and simulate the effect of Social Security benefits in reducing poverty and replacing earnings. We suggest a number of SSDI-related policy changes that could, at low cost, reduce poverty among those women with the highest incidence rates.

In this research we use data from the National Comorbidity Survey to examine the effects of affective mental disorders on the income and employment of women and men. We consider separately the effects of three major categories of affective illness: depression, bipolar illnesses, and dysthymia.We use a two-stage instrumental variables procedure to estimate the labor market effects of affective disorders in the presence of unmeasured heterogeneity between those with and without illness. In the first stage, we draw on respondents' family histories with illness to construct instrumental variables, which are theoretically and empirically relevant. These instruments are used in second stage regression and logistic analyses of annual income and employment.We find evidence that some affective disorders result in earnings losses for both women and men. For women, depression is associated with substantial earnings losses for working women, on the order of more than $6,000 per year. But, these losses are mitigated over time. Moreover, we find evidence that depression has substantial negative employment effects for women. For men, we find evidence of income losses associated with dysthymia, but we find no evidence of significant employment effects.

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Book series
Research in Human Capital and Development
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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