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Behav Sci Law. 2005;23(3):399-448.

What policymakers need and must demand from research regarding the employment rate of persons with disabilities.

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Center for the Study and Advancement of Disability Policy.


Enabling persons with disabilities to prepare for and engage in gainful employment has become a priority concern in U.S. society. As a result, federal and state policymakers are adopting employment-related initiatives designed to enhance the employment rate of persons with disabilities. Policymakers need credible evidence in order to assess and reform these initiatives. This recognized need, however, begs the question of what constitutes 'credible evidence.' Of particular concern in the disability policy arena is the debate over the types of conclusion about employment rates that can and cannot be drawn from analyses of national survey data sets. This article connects standard research methodology concepts with the complexities of evaluating disability policy to help stakeholders appreciate the issues involved in this debate. This appreciation can help policymakers (1) recognize unwarranted cause-and-effect conclusions based solely on existing national survey data and (2) demand better data and stronger research designs to complement the potential over-reliance on correlational studies using problematic survey data to estimate policy impacts. To this end, the article concludes with a practical framework with a checklist for assessing the adequacy of research regarding the employment rate of persons with disabilities.

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