Thursday, April 11, 2013

More On Disability

Back in December and January I made the case that current concerns about the number of disabled adults are overblown. This past week, the topic made the front page of The Wall Street Journal.

There are two issues. They may seem contradictory, but they’re just symptoms of the bigger labor market pictures.

  • My point was that growth of the number of disabled is in line with past behavior.
  • The point made in this article, and many other places, is that the proportion of the population claiming disability has been rising.

How can disability be normal and yet becoming a bigger problem? Because of other issues in the labor market. Namely, the continued typical growth of the number of disabled is surpassing the growth rate of the population and the labor force. In short, the disability slice is growing faster than the population pie.

Is this a problem? Yes, of course. But it isn’t a huge problem: disability payments are about 0.9% of GDP. That’s a tad bigger than Utah’s GSP.

But, does it indicate some sort of failing in the economy, or in the work habits of the population?Probably not.

Now, there is one new argument that I picked up in a comment thread over at Marginal Revolution. Part of the point of the reasonable accommodation clause of the Americans with Disabilities Act is that it would help keep the disabled as functional parts of the economy. The lack of a decline in the growth rate of disability claims suggests that this selling point was just wishful thinking.

Read the whole thing, entitled “Workers Stuck in Disability Stunt Economic Recovery” in the April 10 issue of The Wall Street Journal.

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