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Labor Market Effects of Spinal Cord Injuries in the Dawn of the Computer Age

  • Alan Krueger
  • Douglas Kruse

What effect does a severe disability have on individuals' employment and earnings? Has the computer revolution lessened the adverse labor market consequences of severe disabilities? This paper investigates the labor market effects of severe, traumatic disabilities resulting from spinal cord injuries (SCIs). We compare the employment experiences of a sample of individuals with SCIs to those of former co-workers over the same period, and to two random samples of individuals in New Jersey. The analysis is based in large part on a 1994 telephone survey of New Jersey adults who had SCIs within the past ten years. Results indicate that the occurrence of an SCI causes a steep decline in employment, hours worked, and weekly earnings, but relatively little change in wage rates for those who work. The computer revolution has the potential to expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Our results indicate that having computer skills is associated with higher earnings, and a faster return to work and earnings recovery, for SCI individuals, after holding constant other variables such as education. There is no apparent earnings gap between SCI and non-SCI computer users, whereas among those who do not use computers at work the earnings of SCI employees lag behind those of non-SCI employees. Despite the benefits, individuals with SCIs are less likely to use computers than the general population.

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Paper provided by Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section. in its series Working Papers with number 728.

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Date of creation: Oct 1995
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:pri:indrel:dsp01q237hr94c
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  1. John Bound, 1991. "Self-Reported Versus Objective Measures of Health in Retirement Models," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 26(1), pages 106-138.
  2. Myers, Jeffrey E., 1993. "The Americans With Disabilities Act," Journal of Food Distribution Research, Food Distribution Research Society, vol. 24(1), February.
  3. Louis S. Jacobson & Robert J. LaLonde & Daniel Sullivan, 1992. "Earnings Losses of Displaced Workers," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 92-11, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
  4. Freeman, Richard Barry & Kleiner, Morris M., 1990. "The Impact of New Unionization on Wages and Working Conditions," Scholarly Articles 4632238, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  5. Mary C. Daly & John Bound, 1995. "Worker Adaptation and Employer Accommodation Following the Onset of a Health Impairment," NBER Working Papers 5169, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Monroe Berkowitz & William G. Johnson, 1974. "Health and Labor Force Participation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 9(1), pages 117-128.
  7. Steven Stern, 1989. "Measuring the Effect of Disability on Labor Force Participation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 24(3), pages 361-395.
  8. Mincer, Jacob & Higuchi, Yoshio, 1988. "Wage structures and labor turnover in the United States and Japan," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 2(2), pages 97-133, June.
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