Spillover Effects of the ADA: The Case of Obesity

Inas Rashad Kelly, City University of New York
Jennifer Tennant, Ithaca College


The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 has expanded employment opportunities of numerous persons with disabilities, although its effect on employment for disabled individuals has been mixed. With the strong correlation between disability and obesity, the ADA has likely had spillover effects through several court cases related to disability and obesity. The authors create a data set that combines state-level data on cases pertaining to the ADA with an individual-level health data set representative of the U.S. population: the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 1993-2007. Controlling for state-level unemployment rates, the authors find little effect of these state-level disability policies on the probability of employment and the probability of being a student. Further analysis reveals that the occurrence of the court cases increases the probability that obese individuals report having a disability, perhaps paving the path for the creation of an environment in which obese individuals with disabilities are able to collect disability benefits. © Hammill Institute on Disabilities 2012.