Disability discrimination laws can encourage teenagers with disabilities to leave school earlier because they have better job opportunities. That is the implication of research by Marco Ercolani and Emiliya Lazarova, to be presented at the Royal Economic Society”s annual conference in Brighton in March 2016.
The UK”s Disability Discrimination Act of 2005 gave clear rules for employers to help people with disabilities and tackle discrimination. When the legislation was introduced, children were allowed to leave school at 16 – the new study looks at how the law affected young people with disabilities of that age.
The results are striking: the 2005 Act seems to be linked with an increased propensity for leaving education and entering the labour market for children with disabilities when contrasted with children without disabilities. Boys and girls with disabilities became roughly 5% and 10% respectively more likely to have a job at 16.
Despite these results, the authors advise against seeing this as a universal phenomenon:
”Lower discrimination could encourage children to continue studying if their labour market prospects for jobs that require higher qualifications also improve.”
This study investigates the impact of the Disability Discrimination Act of 2005 (DDA”2005) on the educational and employment outcomes for children with disabilities at the age of 16 in England and Wales. Though this was only one among many legal measures to combat disability discrimination, the DDA”2005 was seen as enacting the strongest legislation in terms of tackling disability discrimination in the labour market. It did so by outlining the measures that employers need to undertake to allow people with disabilities to achieve the same employment opportunities as those without.
At the time of the DDA”2005 legislation (and up to 2013), children in the UK were allowed to leave full-time education at the age of 16. The researchers therefore investigate, using data up to 2013, if the DDA”2005 had any effect on the educational and employment choices of older children with disabilities. They analyse children at the age of 16 because their educational and employment decisions at this age influence subsequent lifetime outcomes.
The predictions on the effect of the disability legislation are mixed. On the one hand, the DDA”2005 might have opened up employment opportunities that encouraged children with disabilities to remain in education for longer in order to enter the labour market at a later date.
On the other hand, the disability legislation might have created employment opportunities at a younger age for these children, thus negating the need for these children to gain additional education to overcome the discrimination. Paradoxically perhaps, the results suggest that the latter happened.
The DDA”2005 legislation seems to be linked with an increased propensity for leaving education and entering the labour market for children with disabilities when contrasted with children without disabilities. The effects are modest but significant for a single piece of legislation.
The reduction in the probability of being a student for these children is -5.4% and -8.3% for boys and girls respectively, and the increased probability of being active in the labour market is 4.6% and 9.8% for boys and girls respectively. The effects are in opposite directions and of a similar magnitude, which suggests that the proportion of children with disabilities who were inactive (neither in education nor in the labour market) remained steady.
But the researchers are cautious about identifying this as a universal phenomenon of any disability legislation because theory suggests that lower discrimination could encourage children to continue studying if their labour market prospects for jobs that require higher qualification also improve. The net effect is a combination of the relative reduction in discrimination along different career prospects and the rate at which future prospects are discounted.
The UK Disability Discrimination Act 2005: Consequences for the education and employment of older children – Marco G. Ercolani (University of Birmingham), Emiliya Lazarova (University of East Anglia)