Disabled Women and Their Economic Well-Being

Bruce D. Meyer, Wallace K.C. Mok

NBER Disability Research Center Paper No. NB 14-02
Issued in September 2014

We study the economic effects of disability on women using 44 years of data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. We begin by documenting the trends in point-in-time disability rates of women as well as estimating the prevalence of disability over a woman’s lifetime. We find that women are more likely than men to have experienced disability byt a given age in the first half of their working years, but are less likely to have experienced a serious disability prior to retirement. The onset of disability for women is also found to be associated with a fall in labor supply, family income and consumption. The fall varies with the degree of disability but tends to be smaller than that of disabled men. We also find mixed evidence on the labor supply response of husbands to their wives’ disability. Disability of a woman is also found to be associated with higher divorce rates thatdepend on the nature of the disability. Cross-sectional differences in time use suggest that, relative to their non-disabled counterparts, disabled women, as well as their husbands do not engage more in home production, but spousal caring comes in the form of more time being spent doing activities together.

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