Martha Ross and Nicole Bateman at Brookings:
Employment rates among prime-aged adults with disabilities in the 100 largest metropolitan areas range from 28 percent to 60 percent (Map 1). Workers and would-be workers with disabilities fare better in places where higher shares of the overall working-age population are employed. Such places include Madison, Wis.; Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.; Washington, D.C.; Denver, Colo.; Austin, Texas; Wichita, Kan.; Omaha, Neb.; and Boise, Idaho.
Nonetheless, even in places with high employment rates among people with disabilities, the gap relative to the population as a whole is huge, anywhere from 20 to 35 percentage points. For example, in Minneapolis-St. Paul, the employment rate among adults with disabilities is 51 percent, compared to 87 percent among all adults. In fact, the highest employment rate among people with disabilities (60 percent in Madison, Wis.) is still below the rate for all working-age adults in Bakersfield, Calif. (70 percent), the region with the lowest employment rate among the 100 largest metro areas.Employment rates also vary by race, ethnicity, and education level.
Employment gaps of the magnitude described above stem from multiple sources. Federal disability policy emphasizes income support and disincentives employment, with only an estimated 1 percent of federal and state expenditures on working-age people with disabilities going to education, training, and employment. Turning to education, improving opportunities and removing barriers for students with disabilities is an ongoing process, as evidenced by the lower levels of educational attainment among people with disabilities. Employers may be unaware of the capacity of people with disabilities, unfamiliar with how to recruit and hire them, and unfamiliar as well with workplace accommodations. Moreover, several reports document that people with disabilities face attitudinal barriers and stigma in the labor market, a perception that is reinforced by a recent field study finding that employers were less likely to respond to resumes and cover letters from job candidates who disclosed disabilities, even when the candidates were equally qualified as those without disabilities.