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The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs (2002)

Chapter: Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market

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Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market

Edward Yelin, Ph.D., and Laura Trupin, MPH1

Disability insurance programs, whether public or private, require an assessment of the ability of persons with disabilities to function in jobs. Although some of the problems inherent in such assessments—determining severity of illness, ascertaining physical and cognitive impairment—were noted early in the twentieth century with respect to private disability insurance programs and workers’ compensation (Starr, 1982; Stone, 1984; Berkowitz, 1987; Derthick, 1990; Mashaw and Reno, 1996), some are new and reflect changes in the economy. The procedures that were implemented to assess work capacity in most disability insurance programs, including the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs, reflect an economy dominated by goods production, physical labor, hierarchical organization, and long job tenures (Yelin, 1992); a population thought to be at risk for work loss primarily because of the chronic diseases of aging (Chirikos, 1993; Stapleton, et al., 1994); and the view that most such conditions would lead, inexorably, to functional decline without the prospect for improvement.

This paper describes some of the changes in the labor market that have occurred over the last several decades, shows the extent to which the

1  

Edward Yelin is a Professor of Medicine and Health Policy and Director of the Arthritis Research Group at the University of California at San Francisco. Laura Trupin is a Senior Research Associate for the Institute for Health and Aging.

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

labor market experience of persons with disabilities reflects these trends, and speculates about the demands that are likely to be placed on workers in the next several decades.

LABOR MARKET DYNAMICS: 1960 TO THE PRESENT

Overview of Changes in the Labor Market

Although it would be hazardous to predict what the labor market will be like in the distant future, several of the most important trends have been unfolding for several decades and can be expected to continue in the years to come (Bell, 1973; Piore and Sabel, 1984; Hirshhorn, 1988; Levy, 1998; Wilson, 1997). These trends include a relative shift from goods-producing occupations and industries to the distribution of services, the increasing demand for highly skilled and highly trained labor and the erosion of demand for those with less skill and training, the emergence of new ways of accomplishing work within the firm, and the emergence of alternative work arrangements throughout the economy.

Some of these trends are relatively easy to quantify, for example, the growth of jobs in services. Some are more difficult both to measure and to evaluate, for example, the growth of contingent employment arrangements (Belous, 1989; Polivka, 1996), the putative erosion of job security (Nardone et al., 1997), and the flattening of workplace hierarchies (Osterman, 1988). Also, many of the changes are not quite as dramatic as some analysts claim: much service work is physically demanding and much of it, regardless of the physical demand, is repetitious. All, however, are difficult to translate into a simple set of instructions for assessing functional capacity for work. Indeed, if there is a message to emerge from an analysis of the trends in the labor market, it is that in the contemporary economy, the division of tasks within and among jobs is growing increasingly complex.

As work demands change, the most important characteristic of those capable of thriving may be the ability to do multiple tasks in an overlapping and constantly evolving series of relationships and to be able to adapt to new responsibilities. The problem facing those assessing capacity for work among persons with disabilities is a daunting one: how to assess an individual’s capacity to do a complex mix of tasks now and to learn a new mix later.

Dynamics in Labor Force Participation

The 1950s and 1960s are viewed by some as the halcyon era in the U.S. economy, with high growth rates sustaining unprecedented increases in

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

the standard of living, allowing most families to survive on one income, and in turn, reinforcing the social ethic of the time that women should not work outside the home (Levy, 1998). In 1960, 66.8 percent of the working-age population was in the labor force (Table 1). The overall labor force participation rate increased by more than 18 percent in the interim, reaching almost 80 percent as of 1999.

Gender

This overall increase in labor force participation rates masks substantial differences by gender and age. Among all working-age men, labor force participation rates declined by more than 7 percent, but men age 55 to 64 experienced an even steeper decline, just under 22 percent. Conversely, among all working-age women, labor force participation rates rose by 68.9 percent, from 42.7 percent in 1960 to 72.1 percent in 1999. Among women age 25 to 34, labor force participation rates more than doubled, from 36.0 percent in 1960 to 76.4 percent in 1999. Thus, the overall increase in labor force participation rates represents the net effect of a decline among men, particularly older men, and an increase among women, particularly younger women.

TABLE 1 Labor Force Participation Rates (percent), by Gender and Age, United States, 1960–1999

 

Year

 

Gender and Age

1960

1970

1980

1990

1996

1999

Percent Change, 1960–1999

 

Percent

 

All persons, 18–64

66.8

69.2

74.0

78.1

78.7

79.0

18.3

Men

 

18–64

93.2

90.2

88.1

87.6

86.4

86.1

−7.6

55–64

86.8

83.0

72.1

67.8

67.0

67.9

−21.8

Women

 

18–64

42.7

50.2

60.9

69.0

71.3

72.1

68.9

25–34

36.0

45.0

65.5

73.5

75.2

76.4

112.2

 

SOURCE: Jacobs and Zhang, 1998; U.S. Department of Labor, 1999a.

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

TABLE 2 Labor Force Participation Rate (percent), by Race and Gender, United States, 1972–1999

 

Year

 

Race and Gender

1972

1980

1990

1996

1999

Percent Change, 1972–1999

 

Percent

 

Whites

69.5

74.6

79.0

79.8

79.8

14.8

Men

90.1

89.1

88.7

87.8

87.5

−2.9

Women

50.4

60.8

69.5

71.9

72.2

43.3

African Americans

68.6

70.3

73.1

73.5

75.4

9.9

Men

83.8

80.9

80.5

77.9

77.8

−7.2

Women

56.1

61.7

67.1

69.8

73.4

30.8

 

SOURCE: Jacobs and Zhang, 1998; U.S. Department of Labor, 1999a.

Race

Race plays a part in labor market dynamics and would appear to interact with gender.2 Over the last 27 years, labor force participation rates increased among all working-age whites by 14.8 percent, but the increase among all working-age African Americans was only 9.9 percent (Table 2). The decrease in labor force participation rates among all working-age white men was less than half that experienced by African-American men (2.9 versus 7.2 percent, respectively), while the increase among white women was far larger than that among African-American women (43.3 versus 30.8 percent, respectively). Between 1972 and 1999, the gap in labor force participation rates between African-American and white men grew, from 6.3 percentage points in the former year to 9.7 percentage points in the latter. In 1972, labor force participation rates of African-American women were higher than those of white women (56.1 and 50.4 percent, respectively), but by 1999 the groups had virtually identical labor force participation rates (73.4 and 72.2 percent, respectively).

Age

Another factor affecting the labor market over the last several decades—and one likely to have an even more profound impact in the years

2  

Prior to 1972, published labor market series combined all non-Caucasians into one category. Accordingly, we report racial differences in labor force participation from 1972 to 1999.

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

to come—has been the dramatic change in the age structure of society as the baby boomers age (Table 3). The proportion of the population 18 to 34 years of age rose substantially between 1960 and 1980 but has since fallen, while the proportion 35 to 44 rose between 1980 and 1999, and the proportion 45 to 54 began a precipitous increase during the 1990s, to be followed in the decade to come by a substantial rise in the proportion of individuals 55 and over.

The importance of the aging of the population for the labor market can be seen in Table 4. In 1999, more than 80 percent of people 20 to 34, 35 to 44, and 45 to 54 years of age were in the labor force. In each case, these percentages had risen over time as the labor market accommodated the substantial increases in labor force participation rates among women. The increase in the labor force participation rates were all the more remark-

TABLE 3 Age Structure (percent) of United States Population, 1960–1999

 

Year

Age

1960

1970

1980

1990

1996

1999

 

Percent

18–34

21.6

24.4

29.6

28.2

24.5

23.5

35–44

13.4

11.3

11.3

15.1

16.4

16.4

45–54

11.4

11.4

10.1

10.1

12.2

13.1

55–64

8.6

9.1

9.6

8.5

8.1

8.6

65 or older

9.2

9.8

11.3

12.5

12.8

12.7

 

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1984, 1997, 2000.

TABLE 4 Labor Force Participation Rates (percent), by Age, United States, 1960–1999

 

Year

Age

1960

1970

1980

1990

1996

1999

 

Percent

20–34

65.3

69.5

78.9

81.8

81.9

82.4

35–44

69.4

73.1

80.0

85.2

84.8

84.9

45–54

72.1

73.5

74.9

80.7

82.1

82.6

55–64

60.9

61.8

55.7

55.9

57.9

59.3

65 or older

20.8

17.0

12.5

11.8

12.1

12.3

 

SOURCE: Jacobs and Zhang, 1998; U.S. Department of Labor, 1999a.

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

able given that the absolute number of young and middle-aged workers was increasing because of the baby boom generation. Thus, the labor market accommodated an increasing percentage of a substantially larger number of persons.

However, labor force participation rates are much lower among persons age 55 to 64 than among those age 45 to 54, and they declined among persons in the former group throughout most of the 1970s and 1980s. The decrease in labor force participation rates among persons age 55 to 64 before 1990 occurred because more people in this group chose to leave work prior to the ages when Social Security eligibility begins (62) and reaches its maximum (currently 65). Labor force participation rates are lower among persons age 55 to 64 at any one point because persons in this group face higher rates of displacement from their jobs and because the prevalence of health problems associated with aging begin to affect a substantial number of people at these ages. As a result of the increased number of persons who are 55 to 64, a higher proportion of the working-age population will be at risk for onset of the chronic diseases of aging, putting increased pressure on disability compensation programs. On the other hand, among persons age 55 to 64, labor force participation rates have increased over the last decade, suggesting that a strong labor market affects the propensity of persons in this group to leave the labor force.

Education

As seen in Table 1, the proportion of working-age adults in the labor force rose substantially between 1970 and 1999. The increase in labor force participation rates affected all but those individuals who did not finished high school (Table 5). Thus, labor force participation rates increased among high school graduates by 11.3 percent, among those with some college by 12.5 percent, and among those with a college degree or more, by 6.4 percent. As a result, by 1999, labor force participation rates among college graduates were 40 percent higher than among persons with less than a high school education.

Since 1960, the proportion of the adult population with at least a high school degree has more than doubled (from 41.1 to 83.4 percent), and the proportion with four or more years of college has more than tripled (from 7.7 to 25.2 percent) (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000, p. 157). Nevertheless, a substantial fraction of the cohorts entering the ages of highest risk for work disability have less than a high school education, including about 12 percent of those now ages 35 to 44 and 45 to 54, and more than 18 percent of those now age 55 to 64 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000, p. 158). These individuals may face a difficult time maintaining a toehold in the labor market. In addition, about a third of these cohorts (33.9, 31.7, and 36.9

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

TABLE 5 Labor Force Participation Rates (percent), by Educational Attainment, United States, 1970–1999

 

Year

 

Education

1970

1980

1990

1996

1999

Percent Change, 1970–1999

 

Percent

 

Less than high school

65.5

60.7

60.7

60.2

62.7

−4.3

High school graduate

70.2

74.2

78.2

77.9

78.1

11.3

Some college

73.8

79.5

83.3

83.7

83.0

12.5

College grad or more

82.3

86.1

88.4

87.8

87.6

6.4

 

Gradienta

 

 

1.26

1.42

1.46

1.46

1.40

 

aGradient from highest to lowest level of education.

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1997, 2000.

percent, respectively) have no more than a high school degree. Although the labor force participation rate for high school graduates has increased by 11.3 percent overall since 1970, it has been relatively stable since 1990. If the labor market continues to tighten in the next few years, labor force participation rates among high school graduates may begin to fall.

Dynamics in Employment Characteristics

There is little doubt that there has been a fundamental shift in the kind of work done, as reflected in the change in the distribution of occupations and industries. However, analysts disagree on the degree to which there has been a corresponding shift in how work is done. Osterman (1988) noted that throughout much of this century, firms had two kinds of employees: a salaried workforce paid to design and monitor work processes, who were given relative autonomy to carry out their work and had security of employment (“white-collar” workers), and an hourly wage workforce paid to implement these work processes with little discretion over how work was done, who were retained only when the demand for products justified continued employment (“blue-collar” workers). Osterman observed that more recently, many firms were melding the two kinds of jobs: bringing the expertise of those involved in production of goods and services into the design of work processes, while reducing the security of employment among the white-collar workforce.

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

The signposts for the changes described by Osterman include flattened workplace hierarchies, broadened and variable work tasks for each job, reduced job tenure, increased use of part-time and temporary workers, alternative work arrangements, and higher rates of job displacement. There is strong evidence in the work disability literature that providing flexible working conditions and job autonomy reduces the probability that an individual with an impairment will stop working (Yelin et al., 1980). Indeed, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) mandates the provision of such accommodations to help sustain employment (West, 1991). The model underlying research on the effects of accommodation on employment, as well as the reasonable accommodation provisions of the ADA, is that increased autonomy to perform an existing mix of job demands in the context of a long-term relationship with an employer will improve job prospects. However, it is not known how well persons with disabilities can function when asked to flexibly shift among job tasks and work groups, especially with decreased levels of job security.

Ongoing data collection efforts at the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) measure some of the shifts in working conditions—job tenure, frequency of part-time and temporary employment, alternative work arrangements, and rates of job displacement. They do not capture changes in the nature of workplace hierarchies and in the mix of work tasks for each job. Obtaining such information will be critical in assessing the functional demands of work and, therefore, in assessing the capacity of persons with disabilities to function on the job.

Industries

Table 6 shows the change in the number of employees and share of nonagricultural employment among industries since 1960. It provides information on the most tangible signpost of the change in the nature of work. In 1960, the goods-producing sectors of the economy (mining and construction, and manufacturing) accounted for 6.7 and 31.0 percent of employment, respectively. Since then, the share of employment accounted for by mining and construction has decreased by about one-fifth, and the share accounted for by manufacturing has decreased by more than half (53.9 percent). Indeed, at a time when total employment more than doubled (datum not in table), the absolute number of manufacturing workers increased by only 9.5 percent, from 16.8 million in 1960 to 18.4 million in 1999. Thus, as of 1999, the goods-producing sectors of the economy accounted for less than one-fifth of total employment.

Concurrently, there was substantial growth in the share of employment accounted for by the finance, insurance, and real estate sectors (20.4 percent, net of a decline from 6.1 to 5.9 percent between 1990 and 1999)

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

TABLE 6 Number of Employees and Shares of Nonagricultural Employment, by Industry, United States, 1960–1999

 

Year

 

Industry

1960

1970

1980

1990

1996

1999

Percent Change, 1960–1999

 

Numbers (millions)

 

Mining and construction

3.6

4.2

5.4

5.8

6.0

6.8

88.9

Manufacturing

16.8

19.4

20.0

19.1

18.2

18.4

9.5

Transportation, utilities, and communications

4.0

4.5

5.2

5.8

6.4

6.8

70.0

Wholesale and retail trade

11.4

15.0

20.3

25.8

28.2

29.8

161.4

Finance, insurance, and real estate

2.6

3.7

5.2

6.7

7.0

7.6

192.3

Services

7.4

11.6

17.9

27.9

34.4

39.0

427.0

Public administration

8.4

12.6

16.2

18.3

19.5

20.2

140.5

 

Percent in Nonagricultural Employment

 

Mining and construction

6.7

6.0

5.9

5.3

5.0

5.3

−20.9

Manufacturing

31.0

27.3

22.4

17.4

15.3

14.3

−53.9

Transportation, utilities, and communications

7.4

6.4

5.7

5.3

5.3

5.3

−28.4

Wholesale and retail trade

21.0

21.3

22.5

23.5

23.6

23.1

10.0

Finance, insurance, and real estate

4.9

5.1

5.7

6.1

5.8

5.9

20.4

Services

13.6

16.3

19.8

25.5

28.7

30.3

122.8

Public administration

15.4

17.7

18.0

16.7

16.3

15.7

1.9a

aPercent change from 1980 to 1999 = −12.8%.

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1981, 1997, 2000.

and by the service industry (122.8 percent). Primarily because of growth occurring prior to 1980, the share of total employment accounted for by the public administration sector increased by 1.9 percent; since 1980, however, its share has declined by 12.8 percent.

Because the service sector is heterogeneous, encompassing, for example, those who work in private households, physicians’ offices, engineering firms, and home cleaning services, it is far more informative to

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

study the employment dynamics within the components of the overall services category. The share of employment in all but the personal services component expanded between 1970 and 1999, with business and repair, entertainment and recreation, and professional services growing by 263.2, 100.0, and 44.8 percent, respectively (Table 7). By 1999, the absolute number of workers in professional services exceeded 32 million, almost a quarter of all non-farm employment. Within the business and repair services component, the absolute number of workers in personnel supply firms (including temporary employment agencies) increased more than fourfold between 1980 and 1999, while the number in the computer and data processing services fields increased more than ninefold (data on personnel supply and computer and data processing fields not in table) (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000, p. 420).

Occupations

The change in the share of employment among occupations reflects the shift in the overall economy from the production of goods to the production and distribution of services (Table 8). Thus, the share of employment in professional specialty and managerial occupations; techni-

TABLE 7 Number of Employees and Shares of Nonagricultural Employment in Various Service Industries, United States, 1970–1999

 

Year

 

Service Industry

1970

1980

1990

1996

1999

Percent Change, 1970–1999

 

Number (millions)

 

Business and repair

1.4

3.9

7.5

8.1

9.0

542.9

Personal

4.3

3.8

4.7

4.4

4.5

4.7

Entertainment and recreation

0.7

1.1

1.5

2.4

2.6

271.4

Professional

12.9

19.9

25.4

30.1

32.4

151.2

 

Percent in Nonagricultural Employment

 

Business and repair

1.9

4.0

6.5

6.6

6.9

263.2

Personal

5.7

4.0

4.1

3.5

3.4

−40.4

Entertainment and recreation

1.0

1.1

1.3

1.9

2.0

100.0

Professional

17.2

20.7

21.9

24.4

24.9

44.8

 

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1997, 2000.

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

TABLE 8 Number of Employees and Shares of Employment, by Occupation, United States, 1960–1999

 

Year

 

Occupation

1960

1970

1980

1990

1996

1999

Percent Change, 1960–1999

 

Numbers (millions)

 

Professional specialty and managerial occupations

14.6

19.4

26.5

30.6

36.5

40.5

177.4

Technical, sales, and administrative workers

14.0

18.6

24.3

36.9

37.7

38.9

177.9

Service workers

8.0

9.7

13.0

16.0

17.2

17.9

123.8

Precision production and craft workers

8.6

10.2

12.5

13.7

13.6

14.6

69.8

Operatives, fabricators, and non-farm laborers

15.6

17.6

18.4

18.2

18.2

18.2

16.7

Farming and fishing occupations

5.2

3.3

2.7

3.5

3.6

3.4

−34.6

 

Percent Share of Employment

 

Professional specialty and managerial occupations

22.1

24.7

27.3

25.8

28.8

30.3

37.1

Technical, sales, and administrative workers

21.3

23.6

25.0

31.1

29.7

29.2

37.1

Service workers

12.2

12.4

13.3

13.5

13.6

13.4

9.8

Precision production and craft workers

13.0

12.9

12.9

11.6

10.7

10.9

−16.2

Operatives, fabricators, and non-farm laborers

23.6

22.4

18.9

15.2

14.4

13.6

−42.4

Farming and fishing occupations

7.8

4.0

2.8

2.9

2.8

2.6

−66.7

 

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1981, 1997, 2000.

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

cal, sales, and administrative workers; and service workers increased by 37.1, 37.1, and 9.8 percent, respectively, while the share in precision production and craft occupations; operatives, fabricators, and non-farm laborers; and farming and fishing occupations decreased by 16.2, 42.4, and 66.7 percent, respectively.

The shift from manufacturing to service occupations does not necessarily mean an absolute reduction in the former. Indeed, in absolute terms, the number of precision production and craft workers and operatives, fabricators, and non-farm laborers has increased by more than 8 million since 1960, although it has been relatively stable since 1980. Among major occupational classifications, only farming and fishing occupations have declined in absolute terms throughout the period covered. In contrast, the absolute number of persons in professional and managerial and technical, sales, and administrative occupations has more than doubled (from less than 14.6 million to 40.5 million in the former and from 14.0 million to 38.9 million in the latter). The number of service workers has also increased more than twofold (from 8.0 million to 17.9 million). Growth in the number of professional and managerial workers has continued throughout the period, with a particularly rapid increase in the number of workers in this group of occupations during the 1990s. Growth among technical, sales, and administrative and service workers has slowed since 1990. The recent rapid growth in professional and managerial occupations and the concurrent stasis among technical, sales, and administrative and service workers belie the prediction that the American economy would be producing few good jobs and many bad ones (Braverman, 1974; Wright and Singleman, 1982).

Part-Time Employment

The proportion of the employed population working part-time has increased since 1970, from 13.2 to 16.6 percent, or by more than 25 percent in relative terms, although it decreased during the late 1990s (Table 9). BLS divides part-time employment into voluntary and involuntary components (labeled “noneconomic” and “economic” reasons, respectively). The proportion of all employment that is part-time due to economic reasons increased from 2.8 to 4.3 percent between 1970 and 1990, but decreased to 2.5 percent as of 1999, because of the improvement in the labor market. In contrast, the proportion of the total employed population working part-time for noneconomic reasons continued to increase, having grown by more than a third since 1970, from 10.4 to 14.1 percent of the employed population.

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

TABLE 9 Percentage of Jobholders Working Part-Time for Economic, Noneconomic, and All Reasons, United States, 1970–1999

 

Year

 

Reason

1970

1980

1990

1996

1999

Percent Change, 1970–1999

 

Percent

 

All

13.2

15.1

17.2

17.4

16.6

25.8

Economic

2.8

4.1

4.3

3.4

2.5

−10.7

Noneconomic

10.4

11.0

12.9

14.0

14.1

35.6

 

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Labor, 1985, 1988, 2001; U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1990.

Terms of Employment

It is frequently claimed that an increasing fraction of all work is not in the traditional mode of being permanent, reasonably secure, in the direct employ of the firm in which the work is done, and with the work done at a worksite maintained by the firm. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has kept abreast of many of the changes in the terms of employment in its data collection efforts, but trend data are not available for many of them.

Job Security Job security is measured by length of time on the job (tenure) and the expectation of staying on the same job for an additional year (contingency) (Nardone et al., 1997). Among men, the overall median job tenure has not changed much since the early 1980s because the male workforce has aged and older workers have longer tenures. Within each age range, job tenure among men has decreased. Among women, job tenure has increased both because the fraction in older age groups has increased and because tenure for women 35 to 44 and 45 to 55 years of age has increased (U.S. Department of Labor, 1997). Thus, the picture for job tenure is a mixed one, with women having unambiguously longer tenures and men having shorter tenures at each age, but with more men being of the ages in which job tenures tend to be longer. Interestingly, job tenure has been falling for both men and women since 1996, suggesting that the strong labor market in the late 1990s may have resulted in shorter tenures as workers left old jobs for new ones and those who had been out of work found jobs (U.S. Department of Labor, 2000).

Contingent Employment BLS defines contingent employment in three ways: (1) the proportion of wage and salary workers whose jobs have lasted a year or more but who do not expect them to last another year; (2) the

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

proportion of such workers as well as the self-employed and independent contractors in this situation; and (3) the proportion of both groups who do not expect their jobs to last another year regardless of how long they have been in them. The proportion meeting each definition declined slightly between 1995 and 1999. For the first definition, the decrease was from 2.2 to 1.9 percent of all workers; for the second the decrease was from 2.8 to 2.3 percent; and for the third the decrease was from 4.9 to 4.4 percent (U.S. Department of Labor, 1999a). Thus, contingency is reasonably common but has definitely not increased in the last few years. It should be reemphasized, however, that the recent decline may be due to the strength of the labor market in the last few years and may not reflect a long-term trend in the security of employment.

Alternative Work Arrangements Alternative work arrangements involve the shift from the direct hiring of workers to perform certain functions to the purchase of the services of other firms for those functions. These include the use of independent contractors, on-call workers, workers provided by temporary help agencies, and workers provided by contract firms. BLS has collected information on such arrangements only three times: in 1995, 1997, and 1999. The proportion of the employed with alternative work arrangements did not change substantially during this four-year period. As of 1999, 6.3 percent of all workers were independent contractors, 1.5 percent were on-call workers, 0.9 percent worked for temporary help agencies, and 0.6 percent were workers provided by contract firms (U.S. Department of Labor, 1999b).

Procurement of services outside the firm does not necessarily reduce the number of employees in the firm because outside services may be new or firm employees may be shifted to new functions as their old functions are outsourced. BLS collects information on proxy measures of the magnitude of employment in industries and occupations that represent services that could be done outside a firm (Clinton, 1997). Data on such measures suggest substantial growth in procurement of services outside firms. The share of total employment in the business services sector has increased threefold since 1972, and one component of this industry, personnel supply, has increased more than sevenfold during this time. In addition, there has been substantial growth in the engineering and management consulting sectors. Also, firms in a majority of industries have reduced their direct employment of business support occupations, those occupations that are most likely to be performed by outside contractors.

Change in Location of Work BLS collected information on the number of persons who do at least part of their jobs from home in 1991 and 1997 (U.S. Department of Labor, 1998). The number of persons who do some

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

work at home was slightly more than 21 million (17.8 percent of the workforce) in 1997 and has not increased substantially since 1991. Almost two-thirds of persons who work at home are in managerial and professional specialty occupations.

Change in the Internal Structure of Work The workplace literature suggests a trend to diffuse authority over decisions about the way work is done throughout the hierarchy, to increased use of flexible work groups that coalesce only for the duration of specific projects, and to an increase in the mix of tasks done by the individual (Cornfield, 1987; Osterman, 1988; Kelley, 1990; Hirschhorn, 1991). The evidence for this kind of shift derives from qualitative studies of work settings (such as the shop floor and office) and from interviews and case studies of managers and line workers. However, without quantitative evidence, it is difficult to ascertain what proportion of the workforce has experienced these changes. In the 1970s, the DOL collected this kind of data in the Quality of Employment surveys; it has not been collected since (Quinn and Staines, 1979; Schwartz et al., 1988).

The potential importance of changes in the internal organization of work for persons with disabilities is profound. Flexibility in the pace and schedule of work and autonomy in how work is done have been shown to be strongly correlated with whether or not someone is able to maintain employment (Yelin et al., 1980). Thus, if the observation that these conditions are more prevalent in work now than in the past was true, it might augur an improvement in the employment picture for persons with disabilities. On the other hand, for persons with cognitive, communications, and psychological disabilities, the need to interact with a constantly changing array of workgroups and the impermanent working conditions may make it more difficult to work. Although it would be hard to capture these qualitative changes in working conditions in large-scale labor market surveys, they may be more important in determining the employment prospects of persons with disabilities than the more objective changes in employment described above.

Rates of Displacement BLS defines job displacement as the loss of a job held on a long-term basis (three or more years). BLS has tracked job displacement since the early 1980s (Hipple, 1997, 1999). The overall rate of job displacement seems tied to the economic cycle. It rose with the recession in the early 1980s, fell with the recovery late in that decade, rose once again with the recession early in this decade, and has since fallen. However, the composition of displaced workers has changed considerably. In the early years of the BLS data collection efforts, the rate of displacement was greater in manufacturing industries and in occupations such as craft

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

workers and operatives that were concentrated in those industries. In the interim, the rate of displacement has grown faster in white-collar occupations and is now almost as great in such occupations as in blue-collar ones. It has also begun to spread to rapidly expanding industries, such as the finance, insurance, and real estate sectors. Thus, although a large proportion of displacement is due to cyclical changes in the economy, a portion of job displacement occurs in successful and expanding sectors. Job displacement is becoming a more generalized strategy of accommodating change in the labor force and is not limited to select occupations and industries facing difficult times.

The Labor Market and Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities have experienced most of the major trends in the labor market over the last several decades, albeit in exaggerated form. In this section, we review the evidence to support this statement. The data on time trends among persons with disabilities, however, do not cover the same periods as the general labor market data reviewed in the prior section because most federal data series do not collect information on disability status with the same regularity as they do characteristics such as gender, race, and age.

Another factor affecting the study of labor market trends among persons with disabilities is the lack of a consistent definition of disability by the various data series. The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), for example, defines disability as a limitation in a major life activity, such as work, housework, or school or, more broadly, as any limitation in any activity. Under this latter definition, approximately 14.1 percent of working-age adults were considered to have a disability in 1995 (Benson and Marano, 1998). By contrast, the Current Population Survey (CPS) measures only limitations in work, which reduced the prevalence of disability in the working-age population to about 8.0 percent in that year.3 The CPS disability measure no doubt captures the severe end of the impairment spectrum, thereby artifactually reducing estimates of labor force participation rates among persons with disabilities. The impact of the different definitions of disability on estimates of labor force participation has recently become a topic of discussion in the disability literature (Hale, 2001). The reader is advised to note the data source for each table when drawing conclusions about the results presented.

3  

Authors’ analysis of 1995 CPS.

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

TABLE 10 Labor Force Participation Rates (percent) of Persons with and Without Disabilities, by Gender, United States, 1983–1994

 

Year

 

Gender and Disability Status

1983

1994

Percent Change

 

Percent

 

All persons

75.0

78.6

4.8

With disabilities

48.6

51.8

6.6

Without disabilities

79.1

83.0

4.9

All men

87.2

86.9

−0.3

With disabilities

60.0

58.8

−2.0

Without disabilities

91.5

91.4

−0.1

All women

63.8

70.6

10.7

With disabilities

38.0

45.6

20.0

Without disabilities

67.6

74.9

10.8

 

SOURCE: Adapted from Trupin et al., 1997.

Labor Force Participation Rates

Between 1983 and 1994, labor force participation rates among all working-age persons increased by 4.8 percent (Table 10).4 Although persons with disabilities continue to have lower labor force participation rates than persons without disabilities (51.8 and 83.0 percent, respectively), such persons experienced a larger relative increase (6.6 percent) than those without (4.9 percent). Thus, persons with disabilities more than shared in the overall increase in the proportion of working-age adults actually in the labor force. Several studies using data from sources other than the NHIS have recently been published. The results of the studies are not consistent (Bound and Waidmann, 2000; Burkhauser et al., 2000; Levine, 2000; McNeil, 2001) and have been criticized as not having adequately measured disability (Hale, 2001).

Gender, Age, and Race

Persons with disabilities experienced trends in labor force participation by gender to a heightened degree (Table 10). Thus, while labor force

4  

Unless otherwise noted, results presented here regarding persons with disabilities use the NHIS definition, based on overall activity limitations.

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

participation rates were increasing 10.8 percent among women without disabilities between 1983 and 1994, women with disabilities experienced an increase of almost twice that magnitude during this time (20.0 percent). Concurrently, men with disabilities experienced a larger decline in labor force participation rates than men without (2.0 and 0.1 percent, respectively).

Recall from Tables 2 and 3, that the decline in labor force participation rates among men was concentrated among those age 55 to 64, particularly nonwhite men in this age range, and that the increase in labor force participation rates among women was concentrated among women age 25 to 34, especially white women in this age range. Persons with disabilities experienced each of these trends in a heightened form (Yelin and Katz, 1994). Thus, labor force participation rates among men age 55 to 64 with disabilities declined to a greater degree than those among such men without disabilities, and nonwhite men of this age with disabilities experienced the largest relative decline in labor force participation of any single group defined by gender, age, race, and disability status. In contrast, young women with disabilities, particularly young white women, experienced the largest increase of any single group defined by these four characteristics.

Education

Persons with disabilities are overrepresented among persons with a high school education or less and underrepresented among those with some college or more (data from authors’ analysis of 2000 CPS).5 However, at every level of education, they have lower labor force participation rates than persons without disabilities, even after statistical adjustment for differences in demographic characteristics (Table 11). The difference in labor force participation rates is greater at lower levels of education. For example, the labor force participation rate among persons with disabilities with less than a high school education is about one-fifth as great as that among such persons without disabilities (14.5 and 73.6 percent, respectively), but persons with disabilities who have some graduate school or more have a labor force participation rate more than half that of persons without disabilities (48.9 and 89.8 percent, respectively). Attaining higher levels of education improves the employment prospects of persons with disabilities to a greater degree than persons without dis-

5  

The analyses presented in the sections on education, industries, occupation, and part-time employment derive from the CPS and use a measure of disability, therefore, that is based on work limitations only.

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

TABLE 11 Labor Force Participation Rate (percent) of Persons with and Without Disabilities, by Educational Attainment, with Adjustment for Demographic Characteristics, United States, 1999

 

Labor Force Participation

Educational Attainment

With Disabilities

Without Disabilities

 

Percent

Less than high school

14.5

73.6

High school

27.6

83.2

Some college

32.9

83.8

College graduate

42.5

87.0

Some graduate school or more

48.9

89.8

 

SOURCE: Authors’ analyses of Current Population Survey 2000 Annual Demographic Supplement.

abilities, but even when persons with disabilities have gone to graduate school, they still have lower labor force participation rates than persons without disabilities who have not completed high school.

Employment Characteristics and Persons with Disabilities

Given employment, do persons with disabilities have access to the same mix of jobs and to the same working conditions as those without disabilities?

Industries

Recall from Table 6 that three industrial sectors have had a declining share of employment (mining and construction; manufacturing; and transportation, utilities, and communications); three have had a substantially increasing share (wholesale/retail trade; finance, insurance, and real estate; and services); and one has had little change, net of an increase prior to 1980 and a decline since then (public administration). Table 12 shows the mix of industries in 1999 among persons with and without disabilities who were employed. There are no clear patterns. Persons with disabilities are underrepresented in one sector with a declining share of employment (manufacturing) and in one with an increasing share (finance, insurance, and real estate), but they have a larger share of overall employment in the service industry and in two of the components of this sector—business and repair, and personal services. Persons with disabilities have a slightly smaller share of employment in professional services than persons with-

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

TABLE 12 Shares of Employment (percent) of Persons with and Without Disabilities by Industry, United States, 1999

 

Persons Employed

Industry

With Disability

Without Disability

Ratio

 

Percent

Mining and construction

6.8

7.6

0.90

Manufacturing

12.5

16.1

0.78

Transportation, communications, and utilities

7.5

7.5

1.00

Wholesale/retail trade

24.4

20.5

1.19

Finance, insurance, and real estate

4.6

6.7

0.69

Services

39.3

37.1

1.06

Business and repair

9.6

7.4

1.30

Personal

3.8

2.8

1.39

Entertainment and recreation

1.6

1.9

0.87

Professional

24.3

25.1

0.97

Public administration

4.9

4.6

1.05

 

SOURCE: Authors’ analyses of Current Population Survey 2000 Annual Demographic Supplement.

out disabilities, the largest service industry component. They have an equal share of employment in transportation, utilities, and communications industries as persons without disabilities.

Occupations

The occupations with an increased share of employment over the last several decades include professional and managerial occupations; technical, sales, and administrative workers; and service occupations, while craft workers, operatives, and farming and fishing occupations have had declining shares of employment. With respect to occupations with an increased share of employment, persons with disabilities are much less likely than those without to be in professional and managerial occupations; they are almost as likely to be in technical, sales, and administrative occupations; and they are more likely to be service workers (Table 13). With respect to occupations with a declining share of employment, persons with disabilities are slightly less likely than those without to be in the precision production and craft trades, but persons with disabilities are substantially more likely to be operatives and to be in farming and fishing occupations.

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

TABLE 13 Shares of Employment (percent) of Persons with and Without Disabilities, by Occupation, United States, 1999

 

Persons Employed

Occupation

With Disabilities

Without Disabilities

Ratio

 

Percent

Professional specialty and managerial occupations

21.3

31.0

0.69

Technical, sales, and administrative workers

27.6

29.2

0.95

Service workers

20.1

13.2

1.52

Precision production and craft workers

10.0

11.1

0.90

Operatives, fabricators, and non-farm laborers

17.7

13.4

1.32

Farming and fishing occupations

3.4

2.2

1.55

 

SOURCE: Authors’ analyses of Current Population Survey 2000 Annual Demographic Supplement.

Part-Time Employment

Persons with disabilities have experienced a disproportionate amount of the increase in part-time employment (Table 14). As of 1999, persons with disabilities reported that 36.0 percent of their employment was part-time, an increase of 29.0 percent since 1981. Concurrently, persons without disabilities experienced a 9.0 percent decrease in the percentage of part-time employment, from 16.7 percent in 1981 to 15.2 percent in 1999. Among persons with disabilities, the prevalence of part-time work due to economic reasons rose at least until the early 1990s, fell between 1990 and 1995, and has risen slightly in the interim, yielding a net decline of 12.7 percent over the entire period. Among persons without disabilities, part-time employment for economic reasons has fallen steadily since the mid-1980s, or by 41.9 percent overall between 1981 and 1999.

Persons with disabilities experienced a substantial increase in part-time employment for noneconomic reasons during the early part of the 1990s, leading to an overall increase of 41.2 percent in this measure over the entire period under study. In contrast, the rate of part-time employment for noneconomic reasons has not changed much among those without disabilities since 1981, having risen overall by only 2.4 percent in relative terms.

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

TABLE 14 Percentage of Jobholders Working Part-Time for Economic, Noneconomic, and All Reasons, Among Persons with and Without Disabilities, United States, 1981–1999

 

Year

 

Reason

1981

1985

1990

1995

1999

Percent Change, 1981–1999

 

Percent

 

All reasons

 

Persons with disabilities

27.9

28.2

33.8

36.9

36.0

29.0

Persons without disabilities

16.7

17.1

16.5

16.7

15.2

−9.0

Economic

 

Persons with disabilities

6.3

7.9

9.1

5.0

5.5

−12.7

Persons without disabilities

4.3

5.2

4.1

3.6

2.5

−41.9

Noneconomic

 

Persons with disabilities

21.6

20.3

24.7

31.9

30.5

41.2

Persons without disabilities

12.4

11.9

12.4

13.1

12.7

2.4

 

SOURCE: Authors’ analyses of Current Population Survey Annual Demographic Supplements for 1982, 1986, 1991, 1996, and 2000.

Terms of Employment

Of the measures of the terms of employment reviewed with respect to the entire labor force, above, none is available on an ongoing basis from the monthly CPS or the annual march supplement to the CPS. Instead, the measures—tenure, contingency, flexibility, alternative work arrangements, and work at home—are not collected routinely and, when collected, are part of surveys in which respondents are not asked to report disability status. Because of the lack of consistent data on terms of employment among persons with and without disabilities from the Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys, we report here the results of a comprehensive survey of health and employment among California adults, the 1999 California Work and Health Survey (Table 15).

In general, persons with disabilities did not differ systematically from those without in the working conditions they reported. On an unadjusted basis, persons with disabilities were more likely to report working at home. After adjustment for differences in age and gender, persons with disabilities reported significantly shorter job tenures and were significantly more likely to report holding their jobs for only one or five years than persons without disabilities. Of note, the two groups did not differ

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

TABLE 15 Employment Characteristics Among Persons with and Without Disabilities, with and Without Adjustments for Age and Gender, California, 1999

 

 

Unadjusted

Age and Gender Adjusted

Employment Characteristic

All Persons

Without Disability

With Disability

Without Disability

With Disability

All-employed, age 18–64, n

1,220

1,099

121

Self-employed (percent)

13.6

13.2

17.4

15.1

18.3

Working day shift (percent)

77.5

77.9

73.6

79.8

73.6

Flexible hours (percent)

55.2

55.6

52.1

55.5

52.8

Work at home all the time (percent)

5.9

5.4

9.9a

6.3

10.2

Contingent employment (percent)b

10.7

10.5

13.2

9.8

12.7

Not permanent job (percent)

8.8

8.6

9.9

8.3

10.0

Temp agency employed (percent)

2.9

2.6

5.0

2.5

4.6

Job tenure (percent with years on job):

 

One year or less

24.2

23.5

30.6

>1 to 5 years

34.8

34.8

33.9

6 to 10 years

17.9

18.2

14.9

More than 10 years

22.9

23.1

20.7

Less than 5 years on job (percent)

53.1

52.4

59.5

45.9

56.8a

Less than 1 year on job (percent)

19.3

18.7

24.8

15.7

24.2a

Job tenure, mean

6.8

6.2

8.0

6.5a

Psychological characteristics of jobs

 

Required to learn new things

89.5

88.9

94.2

89.1

94.6

Has little freedom to decide how to do work

25.2

25.2

24.8

23.9

24.9

Makes a lot of decisions on one’s own

82.0

82.0

82.6

83.4

83.0

Has enough time to get job done

77.5

77.8

75.2

76.8

74.6

Required to work very fast without breaks

43.0

43.4

38.8

42.6

38.9

High-demand, low-control jobc

14.7

14.9

11.6

11.7

14.6

ap < .05.

bContingent employment includes nonpermanent workers and temporary agency employees.

cA job is considered to be high demand and low control if the respondent states that he or she has little freedom to decide how to do the job, and either does not have time to get the job done or is required to work very fast without breaks.

SOURCE: Authors’ analyses of the California Work and Health Survey.

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

significantly in the percentage reporting being self-employed, working a day shift, having flexible hours of employment, and having contingent employment, or in the psychological characteristics of jobs.

Job Displacement and Accession

The biannual Bureau of Labor Statistics survey used to establish the rate of job displacement does not include a measure of disability status. Accordingly, we use the California Work and Health Survey to analyze differences between persons with and without disabilities in rates of job loss (Table 16). In contrast to the findings with respect to working conditions, persons with disabilities reported much higher rates of job displacement than those without; adjustment for age and gender did not alter this finding. Thus, persons with disabilities were almost twice as likely to report job loss in the year prior to the survey as those without (17.0 versus 9.6 percent). Such persons were more than 70 percent more likely to report job loss in the three years prior to the survey (33.0 versus 19.1 percent). Using the federal government’s strict definition of job displacement—job loss in the past three years among persons 20 and over who had held the job for three or more years—persons with disabilities were more than 75 percent more likely to have met this criterion than those without disabili-

TABLE 16 Involuntary Job Loss Among Persons with and Without Disabilities, with and Without Adjustments for Age and Gender, California, 1999

 

 

Unadjusted

Age and Gender Adjusted

Involuntary Job Loss

All Persons

Without Disability

With Disability

Without Disability

With Disability

All persons, age 18–64, employed within past 3 years

1,503

1,316

188

Job loss in past year

10.5

9.6

17.0a

8.6

17.2a

Job loss in past 3 years

20.8

19.1

33.0a

17.6

33.0a

Displacedb in past 3 years

7.0

6.4

11.4a

6.8

11.5a

ap < .05

bDefinition of displacement used by the federal government: person aged 20 or over, with at least 3 years’ tenure on job.

SOURCE: Authors’ analyses of the California Work and Health Survey.

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

ties (11.4 versus 6.4 percent). Using the longitudinal component of the California Work and Health Survey, we estimated the proportion of persons with and without disabilities who were not working in one year who had become employed by the time we reinterviewed them a year later. Persons with disabilities were about 61 percent as likely to enter employment as persons without disabilities (job entrance rates were 20.3 and 37.9 percent, respectively) (data on job entrance not in tables).

SUMMARY OF LABOR MARKET DYNAMICS

This review of overall trends in the labor market and of trends affecting persons with disabilities has yielded a partial description of how things are, not how they might be in the years to come. However, the major trends in employment—the decline in labor force participation among older men, the increase among younger women, the shift from manufacturing to service industries and occupations, and the emergence of new terms of employment—have been unfolding for several decades, and with the possible exception of the decline in labor force participation among older men and the end of the increase in labor force participation among women, there are no major disjunctures forecast for the remainder of these trends in the years to come (Bowman, 1997).

More importantly, this review is a description of whether persons with disabilities do work and, if so, how and where, not of whether they can work. However, the evidence presented in this paper is consistent with the notion that given the appropriate economic climate, a substantial number of persons with disabilities will enter the labor market and then maintain employment. Because a relatively small proportion of persons with disabilities do work and the exact proportion shifts with changes in the state of the labor market, there would appear to be a reasonable number who could work in the appropriate circumstances.

What is preventing them from doing so? Yelin and Trupin (2000) recently completed an analysis of the factors affecting transitions into and out of employment among persons with and without disabilities. For persons with disabilities, demographic characteristics were the principal factors affecting the probability of entering employment, with those 18 to 24 years of age six times more likely to do so than those 55 to 64 years of age and with whites 40 percent more likely to enter jobs than nonwhites. Other social and demographic factors related to job entrance among persons with disabilities included marital status, household type, education, residential environment, and baseline household income; gender, Hispanic ethnicity, and region of the country were not associated with job entrance in this group. Demographic and social factors associated with maintaining employment included age, race, gender, marital status, edu-

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

cation, region, and baseline household income; Hispanic ethnicity, residential environment, and household type were not associated with maintaining employment among persons with disabilities. Interestingly, the principal work-related factor affecting whether persons with disabilities maintained employment was the industry in which they worked, whereas the principal work-related factor affecting whether persons without disabilities did so was their occupation. This suggests that the probability that persons with disabilities will be able to keep working after the onset of impairment is determined to a large extent by the welfare of the industries in which they work, rather than their own characteristics. The welfare of persons without disabilities, in contrast, is tied to a greater extent to their personal background. Expanding industries will find a way to accommodate the needs of their workers with disabilities, level of impairment notwithstanding.

Thus, the question of how to assess functional capacity for work cannot be asked abstractly. Instead, it must be asked assuming a strong demand for labor and the presence of reasonable accommodation, as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (West, 1991). Nevertheless, even when these conditions are met, many individuals will not be working, suggesting that it may be possible to describe a core set of functional requirements that apply even when the demand for labor is strong. Although the capacity to “tote that barge and lift that bale” still applies to some jobs, increasingly the core competencies would appear to revolve around the ability to communicate, concentrate, interact with others, learn new tasks, and be flexible in how and with whom work gets done (Osterman, 1988). This is true even when a job demands the capacity for toting and lifting, but it is especially true in the growth sectors of the economy in which the physical demands of work may be minimal.

MEASURING FUNCTIONAL DEMANDS OF THE CONTEMPORARY AND FUTURE LABOR MARKETS

O*Net6 (Occupational Information Network) has been developed under a contract from the Department of Labor to replace the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) as the principal way of assessing the functional demands of jobs (Peterson et al., 1996). The purpose of O*Net was twofold: (1) to create an on-line database of work requirements in order to provide job information in an accessible format and one that can be readily updated, and (2) to provide a listing of job characteristics that reflect the

6  

This discussion is based in part on a discussion with our colleague Ms. Katie Maslow, but any errors of fact or interpretation are our own.

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

contemporary economy. The DOT characterized jobs on the basis of the complexity of dealing with data, people, and things. O*Net characterizes both the attributes of occupations and the characteristics of the people who fill each job. Data are collected on six separate dimensions: (1) experience requirements (training, experience, licensing); (2) worker requirements (functional skills, general knowledge, and education); (3) worker characteristics (abilities, interests, and work styles); (4) occupation characteristics (labor market information, occupational outlook, and wages); (5) occupational requirements (work activities, work context, and organizational context); and (6) occupation-specific information (knowledge required to do an occupation, occupational skills, and the specific tasks on the job). The data for O*Net derive from a survey of job analysts and from interviews with persons in each occupation (The latter source will include a greater number of characteristics than the former, but the data will be available later.). In both instances, respondents will be asked to report the level of each characteristic on a scale; the average level among all respondents for each characteristic will be disseminated.

A thorough description of O*Net and of how it may be used is beyond the scope of this paper, as is a listing of its shortcomings with respect to assessment of the functional capacity of applicants for disability benefits. For the former, suffice it to state that O*Net has the capacity to capture the complexity of each job through the diversity of the dimensions measured and the heightened pace of change in the nature of each job. For the latter, suffice it to state that O*Net’s principal limitation is its reliance on the average level among respondents for each job characteristic, while those adjudicating applications for disability benefits need to assess minimal requirements on each such characteristic. However, in capturing the complexity of the modern job, O*Net solves one problem for those assessing capacity for work (providing a contemporary model of work), while raising another (providing no easy method to assess which among six dimensions and 300 specific characteristics are the essential functions of a job and which, therefore, are central to an assessment of functional capacity).

Indeed, this conundrum is not unique to the situation facing those who would adjudicate applications for disability benefits. In assessing whether employers are in compliance with the employment requirements of the ADA, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is asked to assess whether an individual can perform a job’s essential function, but the law provides little guidance in how to determine what such a function is (Jones, 1991). If we are right that an increasing proportion of jobs involve complexity and dynamism in tasks, competencies, and relationships with colleagues, then it necessarily follows that a system to assess functional capacity must take this complexity into account today and incorporate the ability to measure—if not predict—changes in these char-

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

acteristics in the years to come. The jobs that can be reduced to one unvarying essential function may be those few of us want and, paradoxically, those that—because of their high levels of physical demand—few persons with disabilities can perform.

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

Retrospective assessment of past attempts to predict the future of the labor market suggests that one should be humble in trying to project the shape of employment in the years to come. Many, if not most, of the predictions of the late 1950s and 1960s proved unfounded. At that time, many analysts saw automation as the principal threat to the labor market, with rising unemployment and de-skilling of jobs the necessary result of this trend.

Today, we are concerned about the erosion of job security and we wonder how many of us can cope with the demands of the service economy (and even the manufacturing sector) for a flexible response to a varying set of tasks. However, recent projections concerning the nature of the labor market call some of our predictions about even the near future into question (Bowman, 1997). In the last several decades, the labor force has grown with the entrance of women into employment and the service sector has expanded. Attenuation of the former trend necessarily will occur: most of the women who could enter work have already done so. While the latter trend is expected to continue overall, some parts of the manufacturing sector are projected to expand, particularly industries related to exports and the manufacture of items requiring high levels of capital investment. Nevertheless, all projections for the future suggest that the premium paid to those with high levels of education will continue and that flexibility on the part of the worker will be of paramount importance.

The fears of 40 years ago proved unfounded because the only model we had to work with was a mechanistic model of the production of goods. In that model, we believed it would be relatively easy to assess capacity for work. Most of those who would apply for disability benefits were blue-collar workers in the manufacturing sectors with degenerative, largely physical conditions of aging. The fears of today may be unfounded because the majority of tomorrow’s workers may function much better than our own generation in jobs with a complex and varying set of tasks and because we may learn to accommodate the needs of the minority of workers—those with cognitive and behavioral impairments—who cannot do well in this situation today.

Just as the past generation was unable to predict what the world of work would be like in the year 2000, we cannot know with certainty what

Suggested Citation:"Persons with Disabilities and Demands of the Contemporary Labor Market." Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2002. The Dynamics of Disability: Measuring and Monitoring Disability for Social Security Programs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10411.
×

jobs will demand of us in the future. However, we have learned something: that any system put into place to assess the capacity for work must accommodate rapidly changing conditions. The visionary and all-encompassing criteria of today necessarily become the mechanistic ones of tomorrow unless we build in the capacity to change the criteria as quickly as the economy evolves, which in turn requires us to have in place a strong research infrastructure to understand the changes and to develop the tools to measure them.

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The Society Security disability program faces urgent challenges: more people receiving benefits than ever before, the prospect of even more claimants as baby boomers age, changing attitudes culminating in the Americans With Disabilities Act. Disability is now understood as a dynamic process, and Social Security must comprehend that process to plan adequately for the times ahead. The Dynamics of Disability provides expert analysis and recommendations in key areas:

  • Understanding the current social, economic, and physical environmental factors in determining eligibility for disability benefits.
  • Developing and implementing a monitoring system to measure and track trends in work disability.
  • Improving the process for making decisions on disability claims.
  • Building Social Security’s capacity for conducting needed research.

This book provides a wealth of detail on the workings of the Social Security disability program, recent and emerging disability trends, issues and previous experience in researching disability, and more. It will be of primary interest to federal policy makers, the Congress, and researchers—and it will be useful to state disability officials, medical and rehabilitation professionals, and the disability community.

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