More Disabled Americans Are Employed, Thanks to Remote Work

 Among the greatest beneficiaries of the rise of remote work are people with disabilities, who’ve entered the US workforce at record levels over the past three years.

Larger Employment Gains for the Disabled

Percentage-point change in share of population employed, ages 16 to 64, since 2009

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Note: Changes in employment based on annual averages.

Working from home—along with flexible hours, job sharing, and other adjustments—has given people who were once on the margins of the labor market the opportunity to join it, says John O’Neill, director of the Center for Employment and Disability Research at Kessler Foundation.

The share of US disabled employees who were fully remote was 12.6% in the first quarter of 2024, compared with 10.6% of employees with no disability, according to the Economic Innovation Group.

“I think Covid sensitized many employers to the usefulness of ­accommodation practices” in a new way, O’Neill says. The tight labor market, created partly by large numbers of people across the workforce leaving their jobs, is another likely factor.

More Amenable Company Policies

Share of supervisors who say that their organizations …

Source: Kessler Foundation

Disparities persist. People with disabilities are still about twice as likely to be unemployed as their nondisabled counterparts.

Wider Gaps for Minorities

Unemployment rate, 2023 average

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

And according to our ­analysis, they’re overrepresented in jobs with relatively low pay.

Disparity in Job Types and Compensation

Difference in each occupation’s share of the 2023 disabled and nondisabled employed populations, in percentage points

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey

*Median for all jobs. Earnings data exclude the self-employed.

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