NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Downside Of The Disabilities Act

August 24, 2000

One aim of supporters of the 1994 Americans with Disabilities Act was to increase employment among the disabled. But that's not what's happening. Unintended consequences are surfacing.

  • From 1990 to 1995, employment of disabled men ages 18 to 65 fell 8 percent -- with the young, less educated and mentally disabled hurt the most, according to an analysis by Thomas DeLeire of the University of Chicago.
  • Economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology detected a two- to three-week drop in time worked each year by disabled men.
  • A recent NOD/Harris poll shows a rise in the number of people with disabilities who claim they can't work -- from 29 percent of the disabled in 1990 to 43 percent today.
  • Overall, the NOD/Harris poll confirms rising joblessness among the disabled -- up 2 percent since before the act.

There are several reasons employers may be reluctant to hire the disabled over able-bodied workers. They may have to spend money to accommodate the disabled worker in the workplace. Also, firms don't want to be saddled with the potentially high legal costs of fighting complaints that might be filed if a disabled worker were later fired -- although employers win 95 percent of cases stemming from the act and 86 percent of complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are dropped or dismissed.

Source: Kevin Butler, "How Successful Is Disabilities Act? Unintended Results Are Showing Up," Investor's Business Daily, August 24, 2000.


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