Skip to content

Michael Ashley Stein, Empirical Implications of Title I, 85 Iowa L. Rev. 1671 (2001).

Abstract: This essay is part of a continuing research agenda proposing different approaches to the puzzle of why the overall employment rate of working-age individuals with disabilities has not increased since Title I's passage. After introducing the broad subject matter, Part II explicates and critiques studies asserting that employers can accommodate workers with disabilities inexpensively, and perhaps enjoy economic benefits as a result. Part III presents and evaluates the primary econometric investigations which find that the relative disabled employment rate has declined since the ADA's passage while wages have remained stable or improved. Both Parts II and III conclude that neither the conclusions reached by these studies, nor my ensuing critiques, are dispositive in the absence of additional empirical evidence. Lacking categorical evidence, Part IV operates from an interim working assumption that the studies examined in Parts II and III are correct. Consequently, it addresses the implications of each set of findings. Part IV(A) suggests that the accommodation cost studies, which appraise the utility of providing outlays, can be helpful in recalibrating the metric by which the economic efficiency of employees with disabilities is measured. This analysis will not result in all accommodations being seen as economically net-productive. Considering the impact of these benefits will, however, render a more balanced and appropriate calculus. Part IV(B) explores the attendant policy implications that can be addressed in light of assessments finding that Title I is causing a decline in workers with disabilities' relative employment levels. Part IV(B) asserts that continuing the status quo, eliminating the ADA, or replacing the statute completely with tax-and-spend subsidies all fail as viable options. Rather, subsidies should supplement the input costs of accommodations exceeding the reach of Title I's undue hardship standard. Finally, Part IV(C) suggests that future research assessing post-ADA employment effects can be enriched by exploring models of workforce participation outside the traditionally utilized labor market paradigm. Investigators should examine the influence that extra-legal (or "environmental") factors, such as the availability of health care insurance, have upon employment effects. They should also explore alternative metrics for success, for example the nontraditional employment experiences of entrepreneurs with disabilities.