Examines earnings for males and females at three different levels of educational attainment: high school diploma, baccalaureate degree, and professional degree. Reports earnings for those with no disability. As expected, the earnings for year-round, full-time employed workers increases as a function of educational attainment. The commercial lawyer is an attorney who is an expert in corporate laws.
Reports earnings data for persons with a physical disability. An inspection of the table reveals significant differences in earnings for year-round, full-time employed persons who are without disability vis-a-vis those with a physical disability- (It should be noted that earnings data for individuals with cognitive disabilities also exist, but we are limiting our discussion in this article to physical disabilities for the sake of simplicity.)
In examining the earnings disparity, it is important to note that while higher levels of educational attainment increase earnings, the earning differences for those without and with a physical disability is significant. In fact, the earning disparity increases as a function of advanced levels of educational attainment. The greatest disparity exists for those persons with a professional degree.
Physical disability is defined in the American Community Survey (ACS), conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. It is a macro study with a sample size of approximately five million persons per year. The physical disability grouping consists of those persons identified in the ACS as having problems with lifting, carrying, climbing stairs, etc.
The professional degree category includes those persons with a doctorate such as physicians, lawyers, veterinarians, chiropractors, dentists, etc,, but not professors or researchers.
It is important to note that workers with a baccalaureate degree and workers with a professional degree are typically engaged in work of a sedentary or light nature. Nevertheless, the data indicates that the earning effect of disability is greatest at those levels demanding greater degrees of educational attainment.
The reason why this is the case is debatable. While some believe that the earnings differential is a reflection of discriminatory effects of the marketplace, we believe that the discriminatory effect, while it exists, is minimal. It is our belief that the primary cause of the differential earnings is a function of decreased productivity. Many persons with a physical disability work in pain.
AnYone who has ever worked in pain will acknowledge that on bad pain days productivity decreases. Persons who work continuously in pain likely experience decreased levels of productivity; hence, they are likely to receive fewer and smaller salary increases over time.
Thus, while historically physical limitations have not been thought of as a detriment to earnings if the individual had a college degree or more, this is conventional wisdom that has proven to be incorrect. This is not to say that it is not worthwhile for an individual who has sustained an injury to undergo vocational retraining. While their post-injury earnings may be greater than they otherwise would have been, there still will likely be a significant disparity in earnings as compared to individuals with similar age, gender, and level of educational attainment but without a disability.
While the issue of earning disparity is significant, it pales in comparison to the worklife expectancy differential existing for persons without vis-a-vis persons with a disability'. In order to understand fully the significance of the worklife expectancy differential, it is necessary to understand the way in which a worklife expectancy is computed.
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