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New study will uncover the links between adolescent disability and socio-economic disadvantage in early adulthood

A three-year study at the Department of Sociology of the University of Warwick will explore why disabled young people in England experience social and economic disadvantage into adulthood, thanks to funding from the Leverhulme Trust.

The fact that adolescent disability is generally associated with poor educational, social and employment outcomes in adulthood has been well-documented but the reasons why this happens are not as well understood.

The project team, led by Dr Stella Chatzitheochari, Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology, will follow a group of disabled young people in the West Midlands in order to gain insight into their experiences and ambitions, and the constraints they perceive as affecting their choices before and after the end of compulsory schooling. Rather than interviewing parents and teachers, the study will exclusively involve disabled young people, a group that has generally attracted limited empirical interest and has been often excluded from the research process.

These qualitative insights will be complemented with statistical analysis of the nationally representative Next Steps survey, which follows approximately 16,000 young people from the beginning of secondary schooling into early adulthood. Quantitative analysis will provide evidence on the different educational pathways followed by disabled young people. It will also examine how these are linked to different labour market outcomes at age 25.

Dr Chatzitheochari said: “It is too-often assumed that social and economic disadvantage is an inevitable consequence of disability – the so-called “medical model.”

“But in fact we know very little about the mechanisms that drive these inequalities. Our study aims to close that gap and to shed light on the hidden social processes that are contributing to adverse outcomes frequently experienced by disabled young people.”

The project will also explore the ways social class and adolescent disability intersect, and the differences in experiences and choices of disabled young people with different impairments and long-standing conditions

Dr Chatzitheochari added: “This project provides us with a unique opportunity to systematically examine the whole range of mechanisms that are driving the association of disability with adverse socioeconomic outcomes. The combination of qualitative and quantitative data will allow us to produce a new conceptual framework for the understanding of disability differentials in educational and occupational attainment. Ultimately, we hope that findings from this project will inform policies to reduce social disadvantage among disabled adolescents.”

15 July 2020


The Leverhulme Trust was established by the Will of William Hesketh Lever, the founder of Lever Brothers. Since 1925 the Trust has provided grants and scholarships for research and education. Today, it is one of the largest all-subject providers of research funding in the UK, currently distributing £100 million each year. For more information about the Trust, please visit and follow the Trust on Twitter @LeverhulmeTrust



Sheila Kiggins

Media Relations Manager

Social Sciences

07876 218166