Variations in social capital among vocational rehabilitation applicants

Authors: da Silva, C. E., Romero, M. G., Chan, F., Dutta, A., & Rahimi, M.
Year Published 2017
Publication Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation
Volume 46
Pages 187-194
Publisher IOS Press

The authors examine the intricacies of individual and community level social capital. Specifically, the relationship between social capital and state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies interaction with individuals with disabilities. Previous research reveals that people with disabilities will typically have lower levels of social capital than their non-disabled counterparts. However, this relationship has not been shown to be causational.


The goal of this work is to examine how social capital varies by employment status for VR applicants. It is also hypothesized that levels of social capital would vary by employment status for VR applicants when controlling for disability and individual characteristics.


In 2014 and 2015 Mathematica Policy Research collected survey data from applicants to the New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, and Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities.


2,804 surveys were completed. After cleaning data with missing social capital information, 2639 cases remained. The sample was relatively split between male (49.9%) and female (50.1%) participants. Half (50.5%) identified as non-Hispanic white, with 37.5% identifying as non-Hispanic black, with age ranging from 25-34 (22.6%) to as high as 55-65 (18.7%) years old. Less than 57% of applicants reported having access to someone who could help with financial concerns.

Data Collection

Data collection was done across three state VR agencies. Social capital was measured by looking at four questions including if applicants had anyone that they could rely on for help: 1. finding a job 2. borrowing money to pay an urgent bill, 3. with transportation to get to work urgently, and 4. help with a serious personal crisis.


There was no control or comparison condition.


Both hypothesis were confirmed. Additionally, disability type, employment status, and perceived health had an effect on social capital. Overall, younger, healthier, employed, and less severely disabled individuals were shown to have higher rates of social capital than their counterparts. This remained true across all four social capital questions.


This work confirms that there is a strong link between employment status and social capital. As social capital has shown to be lower for individuals with severe disabilities, it would be beneficial for state VR agencies to pay close attention to supporting this community. Similarly, those individuals with a disability onset age of 25 or older could benefit greatly from additional support.

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