Changes in Wage Discrimination Against People with Disabilities: 1984-1993
The extent to which discrimination against people with disabilities has changed from 1984 to 1993 is estimated in this paper. A novel data source—a set of health-impaired workers who self-report that their productivity is not affected by their impairment—is used to separately identify the effects of discrimination on wages from those of poor health. The results indicate that for this group in 1984 only 3.7 percentage points of the earnings gap can be attributed to discrimination. Assuming that work limited people with disabilities face an identical amount of discrimination allows one to separately identify the effects of health from the effects of wage discrimination on the earnings of people with disabilities and implies that the effects of discrimination are small. Moreover, the analysis indicates that the amount of discrimination did not decrease by 1993, despite the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). While discrimination did not change over this period, the negative effects of poor health on the earnings of people with disabilities fell substantially; this suggests that without either improvements in technology or the accommodation provisions of the ADA, the earnings gaps faced by people with disabilities would have been even higher in 1993.
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