Julie L. Hotchkiss
Economic Review, Vol. 89, No. 3, 2004

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Even though part-time jobs offer lower pay, fewer benefits, and less stability, voluntary part-time employment among disabled workers has increased over the past twenty years even as part-time work has declined among nondisabled workers. Does this trend signal that part-time work has become more attractive to disabled workers, or does it mean that disabled workers are being pushed to the fringe in the workforce?

This article attempts to answer these questions by looking at the part-time employment experience of disabled workers since 1984. Using data from the Current Population Survey, the author first examines how the incidence and nature of part-time jobs among workers with disabilities have changed over time compared with the experiences of nondisabled workers. Second, she analyzes U.S. Labor Department job descriptions for a broad range of occupations to see how the qualitative nature of jobs has changed over time.

Her analysis indicates that disabled workers are not being marginalized and are finding part-time employment more attractive. One explanation for the latter finding is that employers are increasingly accommodating the needs of disabled workers, offering them part-time jobs that would be available only on a full-time basis to nondisabled workers. Since the data show that the quality of part-time jobs held by disabled workers has not become relatively more attractive, a second, more likely explanation is that policy changes such as extended Medicaid and more generous Social Security Disability Insurance benefits have made part-time employment more financially attractive to disabled workers.

September 2004