Social capital, employment and labor force participation among persons with disabilities

Authors: Burke, R. V., Allen, K. D., Howard, M. R., Downey, D., Matz, M. G., & Bowen, S. L.
Year Published 2015
Publication Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation
Volume 43
Pages 17-31
Publisher IOS Press

The author begins by giving examples of human capital, social capital, and economic capital. Previously, disability policy research has focused very little on social capital and its relationship to labor force participation. Measuring social capital can include measurements on social reciprocity, levels of trust, and participation in community events. In the United States, people with disabilities have typically been shown to have lower social capital than their non-disabled counterparts.


The author provides three hypothesis. First, that people with disabilities have lower levels of social capital than those without a disability. Second, people with disabilities in the labor force have higher levels of social capital than those not in the labor force with similar characteristics. Third, people with disabilities in the labor force who are employed will have higher levels of social capital than those individuals with a disability who are unemployed.


The Current Population Survey (CPS) collects employment statistics in the United States on a monthly basis for adults aged 18 and older.


Data from the 2010 CPS supplement on demographic data and labor force participation, restricted to those ages 25-61, resulted in an unweighted N of 67,009 (weighted N of 151,902,123). Gender of participants was relatively even with 49.31% male and 50.69% female. The sample was predominately White (80.00%) non-Hispanic (84.68%). Only 7.95% of participants reported a disability. The majority (73.85%) of participants were employed.

Data Collection

Data was collected on a monthly basis from the 2010 supplement of the CPS survey.


There was no control group.


The first two hypothesis were confirmed. Specifically, individuals with a disability had lower social capital than those without a disability. Additionally, people with disabilities who are part of the labor force were considered to have higher social capital than those who were not in the labor force. The third hypothesis, that people with disabilities who were in the labor force and employed would have greater levels of social capital than those who were not, was not supported by the data.


These data show that there is a divide between individuals with a disability and those without in regards to social capital. There was less of a distinction between employed people with disabilities and those who were not participating in the labor force in levels of social capital. To address these discrepancies, policymakers, advocates, and service providers should support innovative approaches to increasing social capital among those with a disability.

Disabilities No specific disability
Populations Male & Female | White / Caucasian
Outcomes Other
NIDILRR Funded Yes
Research Design Observational
Peer Reviewed Yes