The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Material Hardships and Income Poverty: A Case of Households Raising Multiple Children with Disabilities

Thursday, January 17, 2013: 4:00 PM
Seabreeze 1 and 2 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Subharati Ghosh, PhD, Post doctoral fellow, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Susan L. Parish, PhD, MSW, Nancy Lurie Marks Professor of Disability Policy and Director, Lurie Institute for Disability Policy, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Background & purpose: Understanding the economic well-being of families who are caring for multiple children with disabilities is critically important, because of the high costs children with disabilities pose to their families, as well as the social welfare system. However, this is a fairly under-researched area, despite its significance. The goals of this paper are to estimate (1) the incidence of households who have multiple children with disabilities (2) the extent of income poverty experienced in these households, and (3) the effect of having multiple children with disabilities on household’s experience of material hardship as compared to households with one or no children with disabilities.

Methods: We analyzed the 2004 and 2008 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation, which includes information about children’s impairment status as well as indicators of material hardship. Dependent measures of material hardship included food insecurity, the inability to meet essential expenses, pay for mortgage, rent, utilities, or pay for needed medical care expenditures. The dependent measure of income poverty was the US federal poverty threshold, equivalized for household size. Control variables included age, ethnicity and education level of the householder, household income and number of household members. A total of 26,622 households were identified from wave 5 of the 2004 panel and wave 6 of the 2008 panel, who had at least one child between ages 0 and 19. Of them, 3527 households had one child with a disability, 756 households had 2 children with disabilities and 168 households had 3 or more children with disabilities. Data was analyzed using multivariate logistic regression, because all the outcome variables are binary. Stratified sampling was analyzed using STATA to adjust standard errors and inferential statistic estimates.

Results: Compared to household with no disabled children, households with multiple disabled children had significantly higher odds of income below the federal poverty level (FPL) (OR=1.98). Furthermore, households with multiple children with disabilities had significantly higher odds of inability to meet expenses (OR=2.60), pay for gas (OR=2.81), or rent (OR=2.50), visit a doctor (OR=2.63), dentist (OR=2.27) and higher odds of experiencing food insecurity (OR=3.32), than households with at least one child, but none with a disability. These households were also at higher odds of having incomes below the FPL and experience significant hardships than households with one disabled child.

Implications for practice or policy: This study provides new evidence of the lack of economic well-being in households with multiple disabled children. The findings have implications for research and policy. For researchers who study the impact of childhood disability on family wellbeing, it calls for the need to take into account the possibility of having multiple disabled individuals in a household, as it is an important determinant of household financial wellbeing. Taking into account this important household characteristic will help policy researchers to get a better understanding of America’s vulnerable poor by assessing their real needs, with the possibility of revising income thresholds for these vulnerable families so that they have easier access to the various federal assistance programs.