WMU researcher's grant renewed for investigation of employment barriers among marginalized populations

Contact: Chris Hybels

Dr. Gemarco Peterson

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University's  Dr. Gemarco Peterson, assistant professor in the Department of Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology, has been awarded a five-year, $150,000 Langston University grant to research employment inequalities among marginalized populations. The findings will be used by employment service agencies and employers as part of a five-year forecast to serve individuals from those populations.

As a postdoctoral researcher in the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) at Langston University, a historically Black college/university, Peterson was part of a $4.6 million, five-year grant from the Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services' National Institute on Disability Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research.

 The grant provides funding to multiple research projects, all aiming to reduce the disparities in employment outcomes among individuals in marginalized populations with disabilities.

According to Langston University, the RRTC serves a National Resource Center in the employment domain and provides guidance and technical assistance to disability and rehabilitation researchers- toward a field that is naturally inclusive of people with disabilities from traditionally underserved communities. 

"Our work continues to recognize that people with disabilities are amongst the most vulnerable populations, oftentimes experience exacerbating experiences in their relation to society as well as employment and things of that nature," explains Peterson. "We're calling attention to a population that is often overlooked, especially in the employment domain."

With the $150,000 cumulative award amount from Langston, Peterson's project will be investigating employment disparities and income barriers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey and the National Survey on Health and Disability, he will inform development of a five-year forecast. Used by public and private employment service agencies and employers, the forecast will be used to build the capacity to serve and employ, respectively, individuals from underserved populations.

"What we've started doing is conducting preliminary analyses on how individuals with disabilities across marginalization were impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to recognize the need to eliminate the structural and systematic barriers that prevent these individuals from having positive employment experience. Employment has signification implications on an individual's quality of life, and we want our research to contribute to the development of equitable employment opportunities for people with disabilities to reach their fullest and highest potential," says Peterson.

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