Dismantling the Poverty Trap: Disability Policy for the Twenty-First Century

Authors


Address correspondence to: Bonnie L. O'Day, Cornell University Institute for Policy Research, 1341 22nd Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037 (email: bo29@cornell.edu).

Abstract

Working-age people with disabilities are much more likely than people without disabilities to live in poverty and not be employed or have shared in the economic prosperity of the late 1990s. Today's disability policies, which remain rooted in paternalism, create a “poverty trap” that recent reforms have not resolved. This discouraging situation will continue unless broad, systemic reforms promoting economic self-sufficiency are implemented, in line with more modern thinking about disability. Indeed, the implementation of such reforms may be the only way to protect people with disabilities from the probable loss of benefits if the federal government cuts funding for entitlement programs. This article suggests some principles to guide reforms and encourage debate and asks whether such comprehensive reforms can be successfully designed and implemented.

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