The Americans with Disabilities Act had important impacts on improving accessibility and increasing public awareness about the struggles of people with disabilities. The ADA made the US a world leader – its language the basis for national policies in the US and the UK, as well as the UN Convention on Disability Rights.
In a recent Openpop.org post, Noah Carl described inequality “as one of the central political issues of our time” pointing to the growing number of cross-national protests mobilized around economic inequality. This mobilization has no doubt helped increase salience around the issue of inequality and while it may not have necessarily led to any specific policies designed to address inequality, it surely got the issue onto the policy agenda. But what might explain why individuals participate in these forms of political and collective action? Carl alludes to a possible factor when he points to his preliminary evidence “that citizens’ concern about inequality is correlated with the belief that individual effort determines income.”
In a September Openpop.org essay, I wrote about a recently published paper by myself and Michelle Maroto that sought to uncover possible reasons why the Americans with Disabilities Act had not delivered when it came to improving employment outcomes. While we focused our attention mainly on institutional, state-level and individual characteristics over time, we noted that important supply-and-demand factors—especially occupational structures—are key to understanding barriers to the labor market, as well as poor earnings.
When Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) nearly a quarter of a century ago, many inside and outside the government saw it as the most important piece of civil rights legislation since the 1964 Civil Rights Act. However, since taking effect in 1992, employment among people with disabilities has declined. In 2012, just 18 percent of working age people with disabilities were employed compared to 64 percent of people without disabilities, while earnings among disabled workers have been largely stagnant over the last twenty years. People with disabilities make an average of 14,500 dollars less than persons without disabilities. It may seem perfectly reasonable to assume that the introduction of the legislation “caused” an overall decline in the economic well being of people with disabilities. However, as is often the case, the relationship between antidiscrimination legislation and labor market outcomes is far more complicated.