NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Unintended Consequences

April 7, 2000

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted to remove barriers to employment of people with disabilities by banning discrimination and requiring employers to accommodate disabilities. However, studies show that the act has had the unintended consequence of leading to less employment of disabled workers. An analysis of employment data for men aged 18 to 65 finds:

  • The ADA has caused a decrease of about 8 percentage points in the employment rate of men with disabilities.
  • The ADA has caused lower employment regardless of age, educational level and type of disability.
  • Those most affected have been young, less-educated and mentally disabled men.

Although employers can be and are sued for discriminatory hiring, most litigation under the ADA arises when employees are fired. The two most common violations alleged in charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission have involved discharge, layoff or suspension, or failure to provide reasonable accommodation. Thus firms may have responded to the prospect of litigation by reducing their hiring of the disabled.

Source: Thomas DeLeire, "The Unintended Consequences of the Americans with Disabilities Act," Regulation, Vol. 23, No. 1, 2000, Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001, (202) 842-0200.


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