Disability and social participation: The case of formal and informal volunteering – Social Science Research


People with disabilities in the United States experience lower levels of social integration than people without disabilities. However, less is known about the association between disability and volunteer participation—despite an extensive literature on other disparities in volunteerism. This study uses data from the 2009–2015 Volunteer Supplement of the Current Population Survey to evaluate how working-aged adults with sensory disabilities, cognitive disabilities, physical disabilities, or multiple disabilities access, participate in, and maintain volunteer roles.

Net of sociodemographic characteristics, adults with disabilities are no less likely than those without disabilities to report informal volunteering, although the presence of physical and multiple disabilities negatively associates with formal volunteering. Adults with disabilities report no fewer annual hours or weeks than those without disabilities if they are formal volunteers, but the mechanism through which they initially become involved in volunteer organizations varies. People with different types of disability experience different patterns of volunteering, and the sociodemographic characteristics associated with having a disability exacerbate many of these differences. Results suggest that adults with disabilities can—and do—participate in voluntary work, but may face barriers to accessing formal volunteer roles.

SOURCE: Carrie L. Shandra, “Disability and social participation: The case of formal and informal volunteering “, Social Science Research, Available online 2 March 2017

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