Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Maria J. Willumsen

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name


Third Advisor's Name

Daniel E. Graves

Date of Defense



Greater inclusion of individuals with disabilities into mainstream society is an important goal for society. One of the best ways to include individuals is to actively promote and encourage their participation in the labor force. Of all disabilities, it is feasible to assume that individual with spinal cord injuries can be among the most easily mainstreamed into the labor force. However, less that fifty percent of individuals with spinal cord injuries work.

This study focuses on how disability benefit programs, such as Social Security Disability Insurance, and Worker's Compensation, the Americans with Disabilities Act and rehabilitation programs affect employment decisions. The questions were modeled using utility theory with an augmented expenditure function and indifference theory. Statically, Probit, Logit, predicted probability, and linear regressions were used to analyze these questions. Statistical analysis was done on the probability of working, ever attempting to work after injury, and on the number of years after injury that work was first attempted and the number of hours worked per week. The data utilized were from the National Spinal Cord Injury Database and the Spinal Cord Injuries and Labor Database. The Spinal Cord Injuries and Labor Database was created specifically for this study by the author. Receiving disability benefits decreased the probability of working, of ever attempting to work, increased the number of years after injury before the first work attempt was made, and decreased the number of hours worked per week for those individuals working. These results were all statistically significant. The Americans with Disabilities Act decrease the number of years before an individual made a work attempt. The decrease is statistically significant. The amount of rehabilitation had a significant positive effect for male individuals with low paraplegia, and significant negative effect for individuals with high tetraplegia. For women, there were significant negative effects for high tetraplegia and high paraplegia.

This study finds that the financial disincentives of receiving benefits are the major determinants of whether an individual with a spinal cord injury returns to the labor force. Policies are recommended that would decrease the disincentive.



Included in

Economics Commons



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