Ex-Offenders with Disabilities May Experience Racial Gaps in Employment and Earnings
A study funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR).
For people who were incarcerated, employment may help foster stability and security, and may lower the risk of re-offending once they return to the community. However, ex-offenders with disabilities may encounter a variety of challenges when looking for well-paying employment after leaving the correctional system. In addition to facing challenges related to their disabilities, these individuals may have gaps in their education, training, or work history resulting from their time in prison. They may also face stigma or discrimination from employers due to having a criminal record. African Americans and Latino Americans, in particular, may face especially strong barriers to employment after incarceration. Past research has found that African Americans and Latino Americans in general are over-represented in the incarcerated population, tend to receive harsher sentences than White Americans, and secure lower-paying jobs than their White American counterparts after leaving prison. African American and Latino American ex-offenders with disabilities may face a triple stigma in the workplace, being a minority, having a disability, and having a history of incarceration. In a recent NIDILRR-funded study, researchers looked at the employment rates and wages earned by ex-offenders with disabilities who received vocational rehabilitation (VR) services. The researchers wanted to find out if there were differences in the percentage of being successfully employed or in earnings between White, African American, and Latino ex-offenders with disabilities. They also wanted to find out whether the ex-offenders with a substance use disorder or a mental health disability had lower employment rates than the ex-offenders with other types of disabilities.
Researchers at the Langston University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Research and Capacity Building for Minority Entities looked at data from 32,825 people with disabilities who applied for VR services while living in a correctional facility. The individuals had applied for VR between 2004 and 2013, received VR services, and exited either with or without a job. Based on demographic data, the individuals were categorized as either non-Latino African American, non-Latino White, or Latino. The researchers looked at the percentage of the individuals in each racial/ethnic group who were successfully employed after receiving VR services, as well as their hourly earnings. Other data for each individual included their age, gender, education level, the specific VR services they received, and whether or not they had a substance abuse disability or a mental health disability.
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Ethridge, G., Dowden, A.R., Brooks, M., Kwan, N., and Harley, D. (2020). Employment and earnings among ex-offenders with disabilities: A multivariate analyses of RSA-911 data. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 52, 279-289. This article is available from the NARIC collection under Accession Number J83605.