People with Disabilities Want to Work, Have Similar Job Preferences as Others, Rutgers Researcher Finds

People with Disabilities Want to Work, Have Similar Job Preferences as Others, Rutgers Researcher Finds

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – The low employment rate of people with disabilities is not due to a lack of interest in obtaining jobs or to job preferences that differ from those of other job seekers, according to the analysis of a national survey by researchers from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University.

The majority of nonemployed people with disabilities would like to be working, and their job preferences are well within the mainstream,” says Professor Douglas Kruse of Rutgers’ School of Management and Labor Relations (SMLR) and lead analyst of the disability module in the 2006 General Social Survey (GSS) conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. Except for the U.S. Census, the GSS is the most frequently analyzed source of information in the social sciences.

The 2006 General Social Survey was the first to include disability questions and enable new insights into the attitudes and labor market experiences of employed and nonemployed people with disabilities. Funding for the survey and analysis was provided by the U.S. Department of Education, BBI and SMLR.

The analysis found that among nonemployed, working-age people with disabilities, 80 percent said they would like a paid job now or in the future, which is comparable to the 78 percent of nondisabled, working-age people who are not employed. The groups attached similar importance to job security, income, flexibility and chances for advancement, among other job characteristics. Most nonemployed people with disabilities were not as optimistic as their nondisabled counterparts about their prospects for employment, however. Only 25 percent believed they were very likely to get a job compared to 51 percent of nondisabled people.

“The results cast doubt on the idea that the low employment rate of people with disabilities is due to low motivation or job preferences that differ from those of other job seekers, and instead point to substantial labor market barriers in finding and being offered jobs,” Kruse said. “Given the coming labor shortages as baby boomers retire, people with disabilities represent a valuable and underutilized resource. Many leading companies already employ best practices to recruit and train people with disabilities.”

According to Kruse, the 2006 GSS survey “represents a new generation of research on disability and employment” and offers unprecedented opportunities to examine desired work arrangements among both employed and nonemployed people with disabilities, as well as the attitudes and experiences of workers with disabilities. The survey, also analyzed by researchers from BBI, asked a wide range of questions about desired work arrangements and characteristics of current and prior jobs, including job stress, levels of respect afforded by colleagues, trust in management, workplace safety and opportunities for promotion. The GSS data also allow a comparison of people with and without disabilities on a wide variety of social and attitudinal measures.

Joining Kruse in the analysis was Professor Lisa Schur, also of SMLR’s Program for Disability Research. Peter Blanck, university professor and chair; James Schmeling, chief operating officer; Meera Adya, research director; and William Myhill and Naomí Enchautegui-de-Jesús, senior research associates, represented BBI.

Rutgers’ School of Management and Labor Relations is a leading source of expertise on managing and representing workers, designing effective organizations and building strong employment relationships. SMLR offers a doctorate in Industrial Relations and Human Resources, master’s degrees in Human Resource Management and also in Labor and Employment Relations, and a bachelor’s degree in Labor Studies and Employment Relations, as well as a range of executive education and other courses and programs. For more information, visit

The Burton Blatt Institute fosters public-private dialogue to advance the civic, economic and social participation of persons with disabilities. BBI has offices in Syracuse; New York City; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; and Tel Aviv. For more information, visit

Media Contact: Steve Manas
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