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The Dynamics of Being Disabled


  • Tania Burchardt


Government policies on disability - and criticism of them - rest in part on an understanding of the circumstances of disabled people informed by cross-sectional survey data, dividing the population into 'the disabled' and 'the non-disabled'. While conceptual debates about the nature of disability and associated measurement problems have received some attention, the dynamic aspect of disability has been largely overlooked. This paper uses two approaches to longitudinal data from the British Household Panel Survey to investigate the complexity behind the snapshot given by cross-sectional data. First, a detailed breakdown is given of the working-age population who are disabled at any one time by the 'disability trajectories' they follow over a seven-year period. Second, the expected duration of disability for those who become disabled during working life is examined. The results show that only a small proportion of working age people who experience disability are long-term disabled, despite the fact that at any one time, long-term disabled people make up a high proportion of all disabled people. Over half of those who become limited in activities of daily living as adults have spells lasting less than two years, but few who remain disabled after four years recover. Intermittent patterns of disability, particularly due to mental illness, are common. The assumption, contrary to evidence presented in this paper, that 'once disabled, always disabled' has lead to disability benefits being seen as a one-way street, an outcome which marginalises disabled people and is costly for the benefit system. In addition, eligibility criteria for disability benefits and employment support for disabled people often do not reflect the non-continuous nature of some disability. Policies which fail to distinguish between the different trajectories which disabled people follow are unlikely to be successful.

Suggested Citation

  • Tania Burchardt, 2000. "The Dynamics of Being Disabled," CASE Papers case36, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:sticas:case36

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    Cited by:

    1. Dávila Quintana, C. Delia & Malo, Miguel A., 2012. "Poverty dynamics and disability: An empirical exercise using the European community household panel," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(4), pages 350-359.
    2. Jenkins, Stephen P. & Rigg, John A., 2003. "Disability and disadvantage: selection, onset, and duration effects," ISER Working Paper Series 2003-18, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    3. McKnight, Abigail, 2014. "Disabled people’s financial histories: uncovering the disability wealth-penalty," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 58041, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Ricardo Pagán, 2013. "Job Satisfaction and Domains of Job Satisfaction for Older Workers with Disabilities in Europe," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 861-891, June.
    5. Jones, Melanie K. & Mavromaras, Kostas G. & Sloane, Peter J. & Wei, Zhang, 2015. "The Dynamic Effect of Disability on Work and Subjective Wellbeing in Australia," IZA Discussion Papers 9609, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Rebecca Fauth & Samantha Parsons & Lucinda Platt, 2014. "Convergence or divergence? A longitudinal analysis of behaviour problems among disabled and non-disabled children aged 3 to 7 in England," DoQSS Working Papers 14-13, Department of Quantitative Social Science - UCL Institute of Education, University College London.
    7. French, Robert & Steele, Fiona, 2015. "Trajectories of functional disability for the elderly in Britain," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 64899, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    8. repec:cep:sticas:/181 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Ricardo Pagán-Rodríguez, 2012. "Longitudinal Analysis of the Domains of Satisfaction Before and After Disability: Evidence from the German Socio-Economic Panel," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 108(3), pages 365-385, September.
    10. Abigail McKnight, 2014. "Disabled People’s Financial Histories: Uncovering the disability wealth-penalty," CASE Papers case181, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.
    11. Stephane Gregoir; & Tristan-Pierre Maury;, 2012. "On the impact of social housing on the labour position of disabled," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 12/22, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
    12. Wouterse, B. & Meijboom, B.R. & Polder, J.J., 2011. "The relationship between baseline health and longitudinal costs of hospital use," Other publications TiSEM bdedc33c-9737-4bfc-beee-0, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    13. Merkuryeva Irina, 2007. "The system of disability benefits in Russia. Estimation of targeting accuracy," EERC Working Paper Series 07-04e, EERC Research Network, Russia and CIS.
    14. Pagán, Ricardo, 2013. "Time allocation of disabled individuals," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 80-93.
    15. Fauth, Rebecca & Parsons, Samantha & Platt, Lucinda, 2014. "Convergence or divergence?: a longitudinal analysis of behaviour problems among disabled and non-disabled children aged 3 to 7 in England," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 59659, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    16. Stéphane Gregoir & Tristan‐Pierre Maury, 2013. "The Impact Of Social Housing On The Labour Market Status Of The Disabled," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(9), pages 1124-1138, September.
    17. Pagan, Ricardo, 2011. "Ageing and disability: Job satisfaction differentials across Europe," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 206-215, January.
    18. Gannon, Brenda & Nolan, Brian, 2007. "The impact of disability transitions on social inclusion," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(7), pages 1425-1437, April.
    19. repec:eee:wdevel:v:104:y:2018:i:c:p:297-309 is not listed on IDEAS

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    Disability; panel data; survival analysis;


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