Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Double Burden of Disability and Poverty: Does Vocational Rehabilitation Ease the School‐to‐Work Transition?

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Abstract:  Poor young people more often face health difficulties, (learning) disabilities, and are overrepresented in special schools. Consequently, youth from poor households disproportionately frequently participate in disability‐specific programs aiming to improve their educational levels and labor market opportunities. They face a double burden of disability and poverty. In our study, we look at poor and non‐poor youth with disabilities (YPWD) who participate in vocational rehabilitation (VR) and whether VR helps them (a) in transitioning into employment and (b) in leaving poverty. We examine the association between the receipt of initial basic income support (BIS) as a poverty indicator, later labor market outcomes, and earned vocational qualification using administrative data. We make use of a sample of all persons accepted for VR in 2010 (N = 36,645). We employ logit models on VR attendees’ labor market outcomes three and five years after being accepted for VR as well as on their earned vocational qualifications. Beside initial poverty status, we control for educational level, type, and degree of disability and program pattern during the VR process. Our findings show that YPWD from poor households have a decreased likelihood of a vocational certificate and employment. Additionally, they are more likely to receive BIS than young people not from poor households and thus more likely to remain poor. In conclusion, VR seems to support poor YPWD less in their school‐to‐work transitions. Thus, disability‐specific programs should be more tailored to the social situations of participants, and counsellors should be more sensitive to their social backgrounds.

Keywords:  basic income support; Germany; labor market integration; school‐to‐work transition; vocational rehabilitation; youth


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© Nancy Reims, Silke Tophoven. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.