Written by: Melissa Chiu
Did you know that there are 7.9 million Americans who have a disability and are working? Also, another 1.5 million Americans with a disability are unemployed and looking for work?
Information released today by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey provides a detailed look at the employment characteristics of people with a disability. This is the first time the Census Bureau has provided in-depth information about the occupation, earnings, and education of people with a disability.
These statistics show that some of the jobs with the highest concentrations of workers who have a disability include dishwashers, janitors and building cleaners, and personal care aides. Not only do these jobs typically pay low wages, but people with a disability also tend to earn less than people with no disability. In fact, people with a disability are about 50 percent more likely to earn less than $15,000 a year, compared with people with no disability.
This earnings gap between people with and with no disability exists even if they are doing the same type of work. Even so, this earnings difference is more severe in certain occupations than in others. For example, half of janitors who have a disability, compared with about a third of janitors with no disability, earn less than $15,000 a year. In contrast, cashiers have, on average, little or no earnings differences by disability status.
The information released today provides users the tools to examine the diversity of the labor force, by disability status, across many levels of geography to support a variety of needs. In addition to examining equal pay issues, state governments may evaluate state policies. Local communities may study employment and labor force diversity within their county. Since there is information on the education level of people with disabilities, the statistics can also help identify skill gaps. We hope researchers and business leaders will use this rich information source to learn more about the workforce of people with a disability.