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The Political Arithmetic of Disability and the American Family: A Demographic Perspective


  • Glenn T. Fujiura

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Illinois at Chicago
    • Department on Disability and Human Development (M/C 626), College of Applied Health Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1640 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago, IL 60608 (

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Demographic summaries of family households are used to draw a portrait of disability in the family. The vast majority of persons with disabilities live in a family setting, and families with a disabled member represent a significant share of all families in the population. The observed prevalence of disability within a family ranged from 22 to 37 per 100. No prototypical family type emerges in the data; household structure was variable and interacted in a complex fashion with key demographics. Economic hardship is exacerbated among families with disabilities and especially among racial or ethnic minority households, families headed by a single parent, and households that had multiple members with a disability. Related statistics on caregiving among family members indicates that the need for support from other family members is considerable. The implications for policy of selected demographic features of family households are discussed.

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