PurposePersons with childhood-onset disabilities are among the most marginalized populations, often unemployed or underemployment in jobs providing neither adequate hours for financial self-sufficiency nor fulfillment through skill-utilization. The purpose of this paper is to examine the extent to which social capital in the form of strong ties with family and friends is associated with enhanced employment outcomes for persons with childhood-onset disabilities.
Questioning the current theoretical consensus that strong social ties are unimportant to employment quality, the authors draw on disability research and opportunity, motivation and ability social capital theory to propose a model of the impact of strong ties with family and friends on paid-work-hours and skill-utilization as well as the potential moderating role of gender and disability severity. The authors then test this model using data from 1,380 people with childhood-onset disabilities and OLS regression analysis.
As theorized, family-of-origin-size is positively associated with hours worked. Family-of-origin-size is also associated with having more close friends and children. These strong ties, in turn, are positively associated with hours worked. The impact of having more children on hours worked and skill-utilization, however, is positive for men but non-significant for women.
This study breaks new ground by focusing on the association between strong ties with family and friends and employment quality for people with childhood-onset disabilities – a marginalized and understudied group. Findings further indicate the particular vulnerability of women with disabilities.