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Chartbook on Work and Disability

Section 2: Work Disability and the Labor Force

2.4. How do labor force participation rates compare over time, for men and women with and without activity limitations?

In the United States in 1994, 158.6 million people were of working age (18 to 64 years old) according to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). Of these, 124.6 million were in the labor force, a labor force participation rate of 78.6%. However, labor force participation rates are quite different for those with activity limitations. Labor force participation was 83% for persons with no activity limitations; but only 51.8% for those with activity limitations as defined by NHIS. This difference is consistent for men and for women: 58.8% participation rate for men with limitations versus 91.4% for men with no limitations; 45.6% participation rate for women with limitations compared to 74.9% of women with no limitations. Between 1983 and 1994 there has been little change in these labor force participation rates.

Labor force participation rates have been consistently lower for men and women with activity limitations, compared to those without activity limitations.

Line graph showing labor force participation rates from 1983-1994 for men and women with and without disabilities.

Figure 9: Percentage in labor force, by gender and activity limitation status, 1983-94, 18-64 years

Source: Trupin, et al. (1997), Disability Statistics Report #10, Table 2.

Surveys: NHIS, 1983 - 1994.

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