Poverty, disability and welfare

James G. Rice, Rannveig Traustadóttir


This article reports the findings of two research projects which focused on the complex intersection of poverty and disability. Poverty is a widespread social problem and international institutions have published numerous reports on poverty and social inequality in the world. Despite the fact that data shows that disabled people are more likely than non-disabled to be poor, few research projects have considered the relations between disability and poverty. The goal of the research reported in this article was to gain an in-depth understanding and knowledge about the everyday lives of disability pensioners from their own perspective. Qualitative methods were used; individual and focus group interviews with disability pensioners. Participants were a diverse group regarding age, impairment, education, housing and other factors. Findings show that participants found it difficult to survive on the disability pension and many were struggling at the edge of poverty. Most used various strategies in order to subsist in the context of financial vulnerability. Despite that most found it difficult or impossible to maintain a surplus to withstand economic shocks. When people could not make ends meet most turned to their social networks, usually family, for assistance and our findings show that such mutual social networks can play a crucial role. The financial and social struggles to manage on a daily basis created insecurity, anxiety and stress which took a toll on people’s physical and psychological health. It is important that action taken by authorities to prevent poverty be based on knowledge of people’s lives and the complex forces at work at the intersection of disability and poverty.


Poverty; disability; welfare.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.13177/irpa.a.2011.7.2.9


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