Unmet Need for Workplace Accommodation

Published in: Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Volume 38, Issue 4, pages 1004-1027 (Fall 2019). doi: 10.1002/pam.22148

Posted on RAND.org on February 07, 2020

by Nicole Maestas, Kathleen J. Mullen, Stephanie Rennane

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We use experimental survey methods in a nationally representative survey to test alternative ways of identifying (1) individuals in the population who would be better able to work if they received workplace accommodation for a health condition; (2) the rate at which these individuals receive workplace accommodation; and (3) the rate at which accommodated workers are still working four years later, compared to similar workers who were not accommodated. We find that question order in disability surveys matters. We present suggestive evidence of priming effects that lead people to understate accommodation when first asked about very severe disabilities. We also find a sizeable fraction of workers who report they receive a workplace accommodation for a health problem but do not report work limitations per se. Our preferred estimate of the size of the accommodation-sensitive population is 22.8 percent of all working-age adults. We find that 47 to 58 percent of accommodation-sensitive individuals lack accommodation and would benefit from some kind of employer accommodation to either sustain or commence work. Finally, among accommodation-sensitive individuals, workers who were accommodated for a health problem in 2014 were 13.2 percentage points more likely to work in 2018 than those who were not accommodated in 2014.

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