An Application of the Justification-Suppression Model of Prejudice to the Disability Wage Gap
I studied the disability wage gap by examining how participants’ hiring decisions changed with varying levels of justification and with the educational attainment of candidates with and without disabilities. The justification-suppression model demonstrates how expressed prejudice increases as justification increases. Participants (N = 77) were randomly assigned to read fictitious hiring materials for either a disabled or nondisabled (control) candidate. I further manipulated the level of justification present (i.e., the level of accommodation requested) and the educational level of the candidate. Participants reported the salary and position they would give to the applicant, their perceptions of the candidate, and their levels of suppression of prejudice toward disabled persons. Results demonstrated that disabled candidates with lower education received a wage advantage over nondisabled candidates with similar levels of education, perhaps suggesting a bend-over-backwards or sympathy effect. However, disabled candidates were perceived more negatively than nondisabled candidates, perhaps as a result of their defiance of stereotypical perceptions of disabled people as incompetent as posited by the stereotype content model. Inconsistent with the justification-suppression model of prejudice, suppression and justification were not significantly associated with any form of employment discrimination. Overall results indicate that disability has an effect on both participants’ perceptions of the candidates and their salaries. These findings may inform future research to explore effective legislative and educational approaches to eliminate disability-based employment discrimination.