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People with disabilities face a massive employment gap

There are more than 20 million people with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 64 who are theoretically ready to enter the workforce, but less than half are able to.

People with disabilities face a massive employment gap
[Source Image: thiago melo/iStock]

Slightly more people with disabilities entered the workforce in 2017 compared to the year before. But that positive stat belies some more negative numbers: The rate of new job growth for people with disabilities has slowed. People with disabilities are still hired at less than half the rate of those without them, and are paid less. Add racial disparities, and the numbers get even worse.

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RespectAbility, a nonprofit that works to empower and increase opportunities for people with disabilities, shares those discrepancies in an analysis of the recently release 2018 Disability Statistics Compendium, which includes information from the National Bureau of Economic Research, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Census Bureau. That data is compiled by the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire.

People with disabilities make up about 13% of the U.S. population, a rate that’s remained steady in recent years. At the same time, their rate of employment increased marginally, to about 35.5% in 2017. The issue is that while there are more than 20 million people with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 64 who are theoretically ready to enter the workforce, only 7.5 million have been able to do so. “This data also shows the serious gaps that remain between disabled and non-disabled Americans. 37% of U.S. civilians with disabilities ages 18-64 living in the community had a job, compared to 77.2% for people without disabilities,” the report reads.

There’s are additional layers of racial inequity to consider. The rate of employment for African Americans with disabilities is about 29%, far lower than the other racial or ethnic groups polled. And people with disabilities are paid about $5,000 less per year than people without disabilities, making the poverty rate of those with disabilities more than twice that of people without them.

RespectAbility goes on to list the states that are doing the best to boost inclusion, with North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah on top, often because of the policies of large companies located there . “Brand name companies such as JP Morgan Chase, Coca-Cola, Ernst & Young, IBM, Walgreen’s, Starbucks, CVS, and Microsoft show people with disabilities are successful employees,” the analysis notes. “These companies also know that these workers improve the bottom line.”

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About the author

Ben Paynter is a senior writer at Fast Company covering social impact, the future of philanthropy, and innovative food companies. His work has appeared in Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the New York Times, among other places.

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