Labor Market Effects of Spinal Cord Injuries in the Dawn of the Computer Age


What effect does a severe disability' have on individuals’ employment and
earnings? Has the computer revolution lessened the adverse labor market
consequences of severe disabilities? This paper investigates the labor market
effects of severe, traumatic disabilities resulting from spinal cord injuries
(SCI’s). We compare the employment experiences of a sample of individuals with
SCI’s to those of former co-workers over the same period, and to two random
samples of individuals in New Jersey. The analysis is based in large part on a
1994 telephone survey of New Jersey adults who had SCI’s within the past ten
years. Results indicate that the occurrence of an SCI causes a steep decline in
employment, hours worked, and weekly earnings, but relatively little change in
wage rates for those who work. The computer revolution has the potential to
expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Our results
indicate that having computer skills is associated with higher earnings, and a
faster return to work and earnings recovery, for SCI individuals, after holding
constant other variables such as education. There is no apparent earnings gap
between SCI and non-SCI computer users, whereas among those who do not use
computers at work the earnings of SCI employees lag behind those of non-SCI
employees. Despite the benefits, individuals with SCI’s are less likely to use
computers than the general population.

Year of Publication
Date Published
Publication Language
Citation Key
Working Papers