A Hidden Market: The Purchasing Power of Working-Age Adults With Disabilities

Michelle Yin, Dahlia Shaewitz, Cynthia Overton, and Deeza-Mae Smith

People with disabilities provide a twofold opportunity for business and industry. First, businesses benefit from hiring people with disabilities by increasing the diversity of their labor force, inspiring innovation, and improving productivity; they benefit from an increase in favorable public perception. Second, people with disabilities also represent a vast consumer market for high-quality services and products.

This report examines the significant and growing economic power of the disability market through the lens of disposable and discretionary income, and provides information to help motivate businesses to enter this market. (Disposable income is money available after taxes to spend on essential living expenses; discretionary income is money available for nonessential items after taxes and basic living expenses have been met.) The report also discusses implications for businesses, next steps to aid in accessing this market, and specific examples of companies in the United States that have experienced strategic benefits from employing, marketing to, and developing specific products for people with disabilities.

Key Findings

  • The total after-tax disposable income for working-age people with disabilities is about $490 billion, which is similar to that of other significant market segments, such as African Americans ($501 billion) and Hispanics ($582 billion).
  • Discretionary income for working-age people with disabilities is about $21 billion, which is greater than that of the African-American and Hispanic market segments combined.
  • Disposable and discretionary income varies by disability type and by state—information that can help business leaders as they make plans to access the disability market.

People with disabilities are not a solitary market; they are surrounded by family members and friends who also recognize the value in products and services that accommodate all people in society.